Drugstore Divas received The Casual Vacancy for this review. All thoughts and opinions belong to Drugstore Divas.
The Casual Vacancy is a mini-series based on a book I never read by an author who I’ve never read. At yet, I still had expectations. Ones that were never, at all, reached. And yet somehow, that’s okay.
And these short sentences? They have to be okay too. Because the mini series just ended. And I can’t breathe. Three hours I’ve spent watching this and I’ve held my breath through the last twenty minutes, hoping the inevitable wouldn’t happen. It did. Spoiler alert: She died. The character who I liked very much, who I was rooting for during the second two hours, died.
It’s a knife in my heart, stabbing my chest, and I don’t understand why I couldn’t reach through the screen, pluck her from the town of Pagford, and let her live in our guest bedroom forever.
I guess that’s the reaction you want from a mini series, one that I just invested three hours of my life watching. Well, two hours really watching and the first just sort of listening. The Casual Vacancy is based on the novel with the same name by JK Rowling (which I didn’t read), who also wrote Harry Potter (which I mentioned before, also didn’t read). Spoiler alert (although it’s a bit too late for that warning, I guess), the ending of the movie is different from the book itself. It’s a happier ending, so the Internet tells me, but this is not a happy ending.
It’s set in the fictional village of Pagford, one that is filled mostly with the haves but also with the have nots. The rich would prefer to send the poor out of the village. They bring the idea of turning the town’s clinic that helps the poor and needy into a spa for the wealthy to the town council. It would force those in need to take a bus to get the help they need, something that’s just impossible and unrealistic. “Oh, they’d get that bus if there was heroin at the end of it,” says one of the wealthy.
And that’s the way of the world, really. Compassion-less people think only of themselves and make jokes at the expense of others. Then there are the compassionate people who are champions for those who don’t have a voice. And in this story, it’s Barry. He’s a social worker on the board who is married — to his beautiful, less compassionate wife — and his job. The town board is at a split vote, until Barry — who is the most interesting character of the first third of the mini series — (spoiler alert) dies of a brain aneurysm.
Hour two starts and that’s when it really caught my attention. During the first third, I was able to work and chat online. During the last two hours, I sat glued to the screen. I didn’t work, didn’t text anyone back, didn’t get up for a snack. I was so invested in Krystal, the 16-year-old daughter of a heroin junkie who wants nothing more than to be loved.
I was invested in the awful power couple of Howard and Shirley Mollison; in the young Arf whose own father calls him a pizza face; in the counselor Tess who just has more love in her heart than her crappy son Fats will accept. If I could rearrange them, if I could make Krystal and Arf and Tess a happy loving family and combine Tess’ awful son with Krystal’s addict mom so they can both drag each other down, I would. But then, that wouldn’t create a story that rips at your heart.
JK Rowling is the author of Harry Potter, so I was just expecting something a bit happier and uplifting. Harry Potter starts with a kid living in a closet under the stairs who goes to Hogwarts and becomes a wizard (I’m paraphrasing and making up that last part because I don’t actually know what happens at Hogwarts). But I imagine Harry Potter is a happy success story and I was expecting that from The Casual Vacancy.
No. Just no. This was not that. But that’s my own fault. You know what happens when you assume? You guess incorrectly and have your heart ripped out and stomped on and you mourn the loss of a character from a mini series all night long.
The Casual Vacany is available on DVD. You can pick it up here, and I really suggest you do. I liked it so very much. Once I can resume breathing, I might have to sit down and watch it all the way through again. Or maybe I’ll just read the book.