The Regime fails to delight critics despite Kate Winslet praise

The Regime (Sky)
The Regime is a dark political comedy that stars Matthias Schoenaerts and Kate Winslet as Corporal Herbert Zubak and chancellor Elena Vernham. (Sky)

The Regime is set to premiere in the UK on Sky following its run on HBO in the US, giving viewers the chance to enjoy the Kate Winslet drama.

Created by Will Tracy, The Regime is a dark political comedy set in an unnamed country in middle Europe, where Winslet's Elena Vernham reigns. The chancellor is a reclusive dictator on the brink of collapse, full of irrational fears like the moisture levels in the palace, but when Corporal Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts) joins her employ things start to change as they embark on a twisted journey together.

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Despite the A-list cast, which also includes Andrea Riseborough and Hugh Grant, critics were not too taken with the series. While praise was heaped on the actors, it was the narrative and tone of the show that they took issue with.

Evening Standard's Vicky Jessop certainly felt this way, writing: "The premise is good, and the cast – including Hugh Grant and Andrea Riseborough – uniformly excellent. Schoenaerts plays Herbert with just the right amount of self-loathing and brutality, and while Winslet sometimes has to struggle with some truly insane dialogue... her brittle, fractured Elena is always compelling.

The Regime (Sky)
Kate Winslet's Elena is a reclusive dictator on the brink of collapse, full of irrational fears, but when Zubak joins her employ things start to change as they embark on a twisted journey together. (Sky)

"The problem lies with the tone, which is wildly uneven, and the creeping awareness of just how little it has to say beyond the well-worn line of ‘power corrupts’."

This critique seemed to be the same with other reviewers, with Entertainment Weekly's Kristen Baldwin adding that the show "is not really a comedy of any hue" before saying: "The Regime may be timely, but it’s not particularly funny, edifying, or insightful.

"The Regime also isn’t successful as satire, though it’s a competent depiction of the many ways dictatorships are bad. Beyond that, the show’s message seems to be that there are no good guys (or girls) in politics — indeed, that there is no such thing as an ethical leader."

Despite this, the critic added: "The failures of The Regime are largely on the page. Elena can be confounding, but in Winslet’s hands, she’s never boring."

Matthias Schoenaerts in The Regime. (HBO/Sky)
While critics hailed the cast for their performance, they shared how the 'problem lies with the tone, which is wildly uneven'. (HBO/Sky)

The Wrap's Gregory Lawrence felt much the same, writing: "Winslet, just one Tony away from the EGOT [Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony awards], delivers work marked by equal parts technique and impulse. Her Chancellor tries her best to be a chameleon; there’s a Vernham on TV, a Vernham with her cabinet, a Vernham with a political enemy, and so on.

"These versions are all, in some way, an inauthentic performance, and Winslet is canny enough to let us in ever so, her lip curling and curious speech pattern betraying a bitter core. But beyond these well-constructed performance strategies, Winslet allows a bit of an animalistic 'freak flag' to fly, jumping at some unflatteringly raw material in unprecedented, jaw-dropping ways."

Winslet was undoubtedly the best part of the show for critics, with The Guardian's Joel Golby adding: "What The Regime does so well is pushes itself (both aesthetically and with the performances) into a place that’s amped up and near-cartoonish."

The critic goes on: "Kate Winslet puts in a huge performance as a sort of Daddy’s-Girl adult power toff, doing this incredible tic, purring a quiet 'yah' after every sentence, which really is funny every time... It’s got oompah beats of farce... All the pieces are there, nothing is happening with them. You are constantly waiting for the teeth to bite."

Andrea Riseborough in The Regime. (HBO/Sky)
Andrea Riseborough was celebrated for her performance in The Regime alongside Kate Winslet, even if the show itself didn't delight critics. (HBO/Sky)

The Telegraph's Keith Watson was not as taken with the show, writing: "Laying on the satire with a ham-fisted trowel, Tracy’s script calls to mind a blindfolded gunman shooting into the air and hoping against hope to hit the target.

"As we tailgate the erratic Vernham’s rollercoaster relationship with minder-turned-lover Zubak The Regime merrily fires off storylines all over the shop, but very few hit home."

The critic added that while the show "look fabulous" it has its issues, namely in that it doesn't know what it is trying to say. Watson wrote: "The nagging suspicion lingers that The Regime thinks its making some deep points about tumultuous the state of the world, circa 2024. Scratch below its stylish surface though and it’s as shallow as a clickbait soundbite."

The Regime premieres on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Monday, 8 April.

Watch the trailer for The Regime: