Its newly elected mayor, Nick Wasicsko – played by Oscar Isaac, star of Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens – finds himself one of the few voices of reason caught in the middle of an increasingly hysterical and racially charged fight.
It was a trip down memory lane for many of those in attendance at the premiere of “Show Me A Hero“, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers Wednesday night.
“I won the author lottery with this team, said Belkin”.
“Anecdotally, sometimes yes. But in reality, a lot of human beings get trampled by that equation”.
In episode 1, Nick Wasicsko becomes the youngest big-city mayor in America, but at what cost? Looming over city government is a judge’s decision that 200 public housing units must be built at various locations in Yonkers. Meanwhile, a lawsuit revealed that managers for the 80% white city had effectively used federal money to keep Yonkers segregated for decades. Numerous white people of Yonkers, especially those living on the more affluent east side of town, were vehemently opposed to this, afraid of crime and drugs and other elements invading and destroying their neighborhoods.
“(Nick) is somewhat callow, the racial dynamic is not something that is confronting him in any deep way – until it does”, Simon explained. “And in classic fashion for our political system, when you do the right thing, we punish you”. (In Yonkers, even following a court order under threat of civic bankruptcy constitutes an act of courage.) As Show Me a Hero unfolds, the early warning signs about Waciscko’s character come to fruition in the face of adversity. But the series is less successful when it comes to the various supporting characters, despite a top-notch cast that includes Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder and Catherine Keener, among others.
Still, like a horse pill that sticks in your throat as it goes down but is ultimately good for you, it is worth pushing past the discomfort – not to mention a bewildering pilot that borders on incomprehensible – to get to the good stuff in this six-part miniseries, which is based on a true story and directed by another big name, Oscar victor Paul Haggis (Crash, 2004). It wasn’t in the ’60s in Alabama.
Simon joked that had he contacted Isaac “15 minutes later”, Isaac probably wouldn’t have picked up the phone, because his career has become so hot.
“I think it’s one of the fundamental problems for the next century”, Simon said. “It makes no sense”.
Due to the content of the mini-series, Simon said he sought a director who could be more cinematic and elegant with the material and show emotion through the camera lens.
“The fantastic thing about that story is that race doesn’t go away”.
“It’s a very important story”. “And so the so-called villains in this piece weren’t wrong”. I wouldn’t want it there. Even when the narrative wanders, the terrific performances, Bruce Springsteen songs on the soundtrack, and its refusal to provide easy answers make “Show Me a Hero” thought-provoking and moving. In addition, Wasicsko’s ambivalence toward the desegregation he has to enforce means the connection between him and the public housing residents we meet and get to know is a bit less powerful than the structure of the show seems to demand.