Programming Review: ‘Coastal Elites’

Kaitlyn Dever in HBO's 'Coastal Elites'
Kaitlyn Dever in HBO's 'Coastal Elites' (Image credit: HBO)

HBO takes a walk through the minds of five people dealing with the travails of a pandemic and politics-weary world in its special movie presentation Coastal Elites.

The movie, created by Paul Rudnick and originally to be staged as a play at The Public Theater in New York before the pandemic hit, features five Zoom-themed monologues from mostly liberal-thinking personalities discussing their views and frustrations with the political and social divisiveness within the country.

Coastal Elites benefits from a strong cast that brings each character to life. Bette Midler opines on her disillusion with the Trump administration as a retired Jewish woman speaking from a police interrogation room after a conflict with a MAGA hat-wearing man in a restaurant; while Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) portrays an actor contemplating a potnetially career-making role as the first gay superhero in today’s divisive environment. Issa Rae (Insecure), fresh from a Black Lives Matter protest, speaks on a run-in her character and her rich father had with Ivanka Trump at the White House; Sarah Paulson (American Crime Story) interrupts her emerging YouTube blog to speak on her lockdown woes while spending time with conservative relatives in Wisconsin; and Kaitlyn Dever (Unbelievable) gives a first-person account of a nurse volunteering at a New York hospital overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. 

Even with the strong performances, viewers likely suffering from Zoom fatigue in their own lives may or may not have the temperament to sit through five monologues of 15 to 20 minutes in length, despite the compelling stories they tell. Those who do will come away with a unique, witty provocative and often funny reflection on the country’s current state of affairs. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.