This ‘Young Pope’ is Behaving Badly

The Young Pope

Joey Moser looks jauntily at HBO’s The Young Pope. No Catholic guilt here!

Disclaimer: I’m not a Catholic. The closest I’ve come to studying any type of religion was when I performed in productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and several productions of Godspell. I bring up my own theatrical background because I’ve always thought that religion can be a very personal and emotional thing. Luckily for HBO’s new limited series, The Young Pope, I can appreciate the visual and technical achievements even though some of the Catholic mumbo jumbo goes a bit over my head.

There’s a fox in the hen house, or, in this case, Vatican City. Jude Law headlines the series as Pope Pius XIII, the first American Holy Father, and he looks like he’s having a great time. Through the pilot, he grimaces as if he’s tricked everyone, and, in the opening scenes, he seems to glide throughout the hallways as onlookers smile graciously at him.

There is a lot of talk about the image of the church, and Law’s Pope spends most of the pilot pronouncing power plays with some of the cardinals. “We have not only forgot to play but forgot to be happy,” he says all the while chain smoking and detailing how he only drinks a Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast. Product placement in the Vatican!

The most interesting relationship His Hottie Holiness shares is with Sister Mary, played by Diane Keaton. Sister Mary has been looking after him since he was seven years old and he was known as Lenny Belardo, but she might be the only person he would consider getting advice from. When they are alone, she quietly tells him that he needs to be a good leader—“You are the father and mother of the entire Catholic Church.”

The Young Pope was created by Academy Award-winning director Paolo Sorrentino, so we know one thing is for sure: the entire thing is going to be gorgeous. The one thing atheists and nonbelievers can get into is the pageantry and opulence of Vatican City, and the cinematography is designed to keep you hooked. The opening shot of the first episode is a newborn crawling over a bunch of other sleeping babies. It’s like an Anne Geddes photoshoot gone horribly wrong.

Will devout religious folks tune into this? I have such doubts! It feels like it’s trying a little too hard to be scandalous in some scenes. The Pope is smoking! The Pope said masturbate! I saw the Pope’s ass! Twice! Worshiping Law’s behind might be an easier sell. If you want stylish drama, this new show might draw you in, but you might be better off kneeling and praying for something less over-the-top.

HBO’s The Young Pope premieres Sunday night at 9pm ET.

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