THE LIMITED SERIES “Mosaic”
WHEN | WHERE Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. on HBO
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Popular children’s book author and illustrator Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone) is brutally murdered on her Utah estate. Suspicion ultimately falls on several people, most notably her con-man lover, Eric Neill (Frederick Weller), and a would-be artist who lives on her estate, Joel Hurley (Garrett Hedlund). The local sheriff, Nate Henry (Devin Ratray), and Neill’s sister Petra (Jennifer Ferrin) attempt to solve the whodunit. “Mosaic,” by the way, refers to Lake’s children’s art foundation, and much more.
This six-parter (the last two hours air Friday) was directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Ed Solomon (“Men in Black”). Soderbergh also released a game app based on the movie last fall, which explores the murder from multiple perspectives.
MY SAY “Mosaic” is a six-hour limited series that essentially feels like a two-hour movie. In true Soderbergh fashion, this statement can be interpreted many ways. Here are two:
“Mosaic” is so entertaining (it is) and engrossing (that, too) that it flies by. These six hours pleasurably melt away, and before you know it, you’re at the closing credits. (Unfortunately, HBO viewers must wait until Friday to get there.)
Here’s the other way: The meal, if six-hour limited series can be considered “meals,” doesn’t quite fill you up. You’ll want a lot more. Maybe a prequel or sequel, or whatever else comes before or after those, would suffice. The app probably won’t help because that’s a game, and no matter how detailed can’t fill the emotional or intellectual void you’ll experience by the end of this. Maybe it can wrap some inconsistencies and lingering puzzles, but it can’t satiate the appetite. You will want more. You must have more.
Speaking of endings, it, too, will be fiercely debated, but “Mosaic” is a character study as much as a murder mystery. Soderbergh sought to resolve both, and does, satisfactorily for the most part.
The performances are excellent, and if this is the beginning of Stone’s comeback tour, then upward and onward. She’s just great as the simpering, whining boozer who’s lost her creative soul but knows that somewhere deep inside a spark still smolders. She’s a child who understands children, and also understands the human impulse to find something truly meaningful in the stories we tell ourselves. But she’s buried herself in alcohol, sex and cynicism. She’s lost, but at least has a nice view of the Rockies.
Hedlund’s having his moment too. He recently starred in the Golden-Globe-nominated “Mudbound” for Netflix, but his Joel Hurley should be the breakout role. Like Olivia, Joel is lost and needs crutches — other people or the bottle — to find what he’s looking for. He has no idea what that is and hasn’t the inner strength to find out. Ratray’s Henry does know what he wants, but longing, insecurity and guilt have taken their toll.
Meanwhile, there are a constellation of other sharply drawn characters — Olivia’s pal, JC (Paul Reubens); wealthy Olivia neighbor Tom Davis (Michael Cerveris); public defender Amy Lambson (Allison Tolman), to name a few. Then there’s Ferrin’s Petra Neill.
Ferrin — of Amagansett, by the way — has had a solid TV career, but she’s upped her game with “Mosaic.” This series is Petra’s story as much as Olivia’s. Unlike Olivia, Petra is a mystery, even to herself, while her cool, gray eyes betray nothing inside. Like Stone, Ferrin doesn’t waste a second of screen time.
BOTTOM LINE Hugely enjoyable and addictive, but will leave you wanting more, also needing more (including a few answers).