Hot Hot Hunks

Pierce Brosnan and Jesse Williams make The Great Lillian Hall a zaddy-fest

I didn’t press play on the latest HBO Original film because I wanted to get my rocks off, but hear me out. The Great Lillian Hall, a story about a famous stage actress coming to terms with her Lewy body dementia diagnosis during a Broadway production of The Cherry Orchard, carries a few delightfully hot surprises.

Those surprises have almost nothing to do with the script, which is as paint-by-the-numbers as you can get. Subtle it is not—which is fine, because that’s not what we were expecting from an HBO Original that takes its cues from the Ryan Murphy-verse. Does Lillian (played by the brilliant Jessica Lange) often see her dead, fedora-wearing husband’s ghost before her, Little Voice style? Of course. Is the All About Eve threat of the younger, more glamorous understudy taking over her role thwarted in the nick of time? Naturally! As theater-world dramas go, it’s pretty standard!

Thankfully, however, Lillian Hall keeps the best aspect of the Murphy-verse intact: the casting. In addition to a star turn by Lange, we get Murphy favorites Kathy Bates (as Lillian’s long-suffering assistant) and Lily Rabe (as her long-suffering daughter.) And the men…oh, the men.

Not only does Lillian share her uptown view with a sexy bachelor neighbor played by silver fox Pierce Brosnan, her Cherry Orchard director is played by mega-hunk Jesse Williams. In this universe, a grande dame of the New York theater is almost never unaccompanied by a beautiful man, and honestly, that’s exactly as it should be. There’s even a bitchy lesbian character! What more could the gays possibly want!

It almost doesn’t matter that Lillian Hall hits all the expected notes: this is the kind of movie that’s meant to give you what’s expected, with the appropriate amount of gloss. We know exactly what the dramatic beats are going to be, and part of the pleasure lies in predicting them. The other part lies in wondering how Pierce Brosnan has looked so good for so long. Meanwhile, Jesse Williams manages to be the most interesting element in every scene he appears.

Basically, if you’re looking for a sincere, old-fashioned drama with a side of hunk attached, look no further than Lillian Hall.

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