Hotel Portofino: too many wires in the sumptuous Downton-on-the-riviera
REVIEW: With its hints of scandal and duplicity, Sky TV’s new British period drama evokes hope for something akin to The Talented Mr. Ripley.
However, in truth, the six-part Hotel Portofino (which debuts on UKTV on Monday 23rd May at 9.30pm and also available to stream on Sky Go), for all its murky machinations and prodigious dialogue, has much more in common with the most distinguished tastes of Tea With Mussolini, Enchanted April and Under the Tuscan Sun.
Our setting is the Italian Riviera in 1926 and Bella Ainsworth (Natascha McElhone) is desperate to make a good first impression.
“Everything should feel like home away from home,” she reminds her son Lucian (Oliver Dench) after he doesn’t introduce himself properly to Julia (Lucy Akhurst) and Rose (Claude Scott-Mitchell ) Drummond-Ward.
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Not only is keeping them happy vital for word of mouth for the fledgling business, but, unbeknownst to Lucian, his father Cecil (Mark Umbers) has envisioned Rose as a match for his battle-scarred brood and seemingly directionless. It’s a bet that has also drawn the ire of Cecil’s daughter, Alice (Olivia Morris). “He won’t spend half the price to find me a husband,” she says indignantly.
Increasingly absent, it turns out that Cecil has in fact squandered a fortune (his own and the family’s) elsewhere, much to the chagrin of an exasperated Bella.
“I can’t run a hotel on credit,” she fumes, while harboring a secret that may have put her in a compromising position with an infamous local politician who stumbled across it.
And as if that weren’t enough, American Jack Turner (Adam James) has just wandered down the hall with his wife Claudine (Lily Turner), a woman whose daring sense of fashion is about to turn heads. from everyone.
Yes, Matt Baker’s blast of Downton-on-the-rivera-esque drama is filled with annoying aunts, disapproving matriarchs and potential scandals, both outside the house and behind the scenes at the eponymous establishment. .
Lavish costumes and impressive production design help draw the viewer in, but one can’t help but feel they don’t make the most of the Mediterranean setting (Croatia replacing Italy for the most part).
Likewise, there’s almost too much going on plot-wise, leaving its main asset, the luminous McElhone (Ronin, The Truman Show) at least at first, criminally on the periphery. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre, the setting, or any of the cast, this should provide more than satisfying date viewing.