Pope Pius XIII has the hottest naked butt of any Pope you’ve ever seen.
Yes, The Young Pope is that kind of show. There’s no mistaking this for a respectful bio-pic of Popes Francis, Benedict or John Paul. This 10 part co-production between HBO, Canal+ and Sky Atlantic is a fictional work created and directed by Paolo Sorrentino (Youth, The Great Beauty), pitched at a binge drama audience.
Jude Law plays Lenny Belardo, the newly elected Pius XIII, the youngest Pope in history, and the first American pontiff. He comes to the position with radical ideas, a modern outlook, and all kinds of self-doubt.
The opening sequence, in which he dreams of fronting thousands in St. Peter’s Square, includes declarations about married priests, homosexuality, contraception, abortion and even masturbation. In a telling revelation about self, he announces, “Not only have we forgotten to play, we have forgotten to be happy.”
In his waking life the newly-installed Pius is equally radical. He smokes in the Vatican, insists on a Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast, and dismisses years of tradition with a new order.
With his brash American accent, Pius also has all the boorish charm of a Trump-like Pope, revelling in his power, playing games with his cardinals and clerics, and signalling that there is a new sheriff in Vatican town.
He isn’t aware that there are forces within his own papacy to undermine him. Indeed, wiser souls including Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) are used to being masterful puppeteers of the Pontiff, in a drama that wastes no time in setting up a tug of war.
But Pius calls on elderly US nun Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), who raised the young Lenny in her orphanage, to consult as his deputy.
“You have to lead the congregation. 1 billion people,” she reminds Pius.
“From now on you are no longer Lenny Volardo, the fatherless, motherless boy.”
Meanwhile Cardinal Michael Spencer (James Cromwell) is also unhappy about being overlooked for a role he expected to inherit. He is filled with anguish following Lenny’s pontification.
Pius operates with all the Machiavellian cunning of a good TV villain. Jude Law brings plenty of swagger and arrogance to this most contradictory of roles, misbehaving like a bad boy given the keys to the Vatican. But he is also deeply lonely, which should draw upon a deeper well of performance. Filmed largely in Rome and Vienna, the series is swimming in European locales and architecture, albeit drawing upon CGI for exterior shots such as St. Peter’s Square.
The writing lacks a certain subtlety that might have elevated this to best in show, preferring to draw upon shock tactics and tropes familiar to those employed in crime dramas and thrillers. Purists won’t like this work at all, but those prepared to put reality to one side for an indulgent fabrication should be entertained. That said, there is arguably far more drama in a dramatisation of Pope John Paul I, who only lasted 33 days in 1978 amid rumours of an assassination.
The Young Pope is a very modern costume drama for agnostic fans of drama.
The Young Pope screens 10:25pm Wednesday on SBS.