‘The Idol’ is risqué and disturbing in many ways but you can’t deny Lily-Rose Depp’s brilliance in it

Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn in The Idol. Picture: Supplied

Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn in The Idol. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 15, 2023


“Torture porn!” This is how the US critics have been describing HBO’s much-hyped risqué drama, “The Idol”.

That it stars Lily-Rose Depp, the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, has a lot to do with the show falling under the microscopic glare of everyone.

But let’s drown out the noise for a second and state a few facts. Sam Levinson, who co-created and directed “The Idol”, is known for pushing the envelope – “Euphoria” is testament to that fact.

Is the sex in your face? Yes. Is there context to it? Of course.

I don’t think the debate here should be on whether the show satisfies the viewers. It’s about the creatives telling a disturbing story of stardom that rattles the walls of #MeTooMovement.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course.

The opening frames of “The Idol” is with Jocelyn (Depp), an up-and-coming pop idol, amid a seductive photo shoot.

On the cue of the photographer, she is asked to serve different poses. But the shoot hits a stumbling block when a nudity breach in the contract comes up.

And Chaim (Hank Azaria), Jocelyn’s co-manager, is not a fan of the delay and the red tape.

Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn in The Idol. Picture: Supplied

The team try to downplay a PR crisis when a revenge porn image of Jocelyn surfaces.

Xander (Troye Sivan), Jocelyn’s creative director, along with record label executive Nikki Katz (Jane Adams), Leia (Rachel Sennott), who is Jocelyn’s best friend and assistant, and co-manager Destiny (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), attempt to do damage control.

Jocelyn is on the cusp of taking the world by storm with her sound, look and enigmatic personality.

But beneath the surface, she’s a hot mess. Grieving over her late mother, she has imposter syndrome.

Mentally, she is not okay. But Nikki has no qualms about romanticising mental health to propel Jocelyn into the limelight.

This is most evident when they attempt to shoot the video for her new music. And after numerous retakes, it fails to come together.

Jocelyn, emotionally, mentally and physically tormented, becomes delirious. There is an overarching question here about the price of fame.

Plans are further derailed when Jocelyn bumps into Tedros (Tesfaye) at a club. The chemistry between them is inescapable.

She is drawn to his confidence and becomes susceptible to his suggestions. This has a domino effect on her career as it torpedoes plans that are in the works.

Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn with Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye as Tedros in The Idol. Picture: Supplied

Jocelyn is looking for love, acceptance and for creative freedom. She believes she has found that with Tedros. But she is unaware of his past or his motives, especially when he invites himself into her home under the guise of them working closely on her music.

Hollywood has been a breeding ground for such stories for the longest time. Have we not seen this manifested in different ways in the careers of Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Evan Rachel Wood?

At 24, Depp should be applauded – not criticised – for taking on such a bold role. The character may be unsettling with her sexuality and vulnerability. But you can’t take away from Depp’s poignant performance.

She nails the nuances of her character. Her star clout is unmistakable as she walks a fine line between fame and shame.

To those who have a bone to pick with the makers for taking advantage of Depp, at least take her feelings into account too.

She said: “Jocelyn is a born and bred performer – and I think that extends to every aspect of her life, not just her professional life… I also think that the occasional bareness of the character physically mirrors the bareness that we get to see emotionally in her.

“I was given the privilege of being really involved in the creation of this character and the ins and outs of how she expresses herself.”

Love it or hate it, “The Idol” is a talking point, as is Depp.

∎ “The Idol” is streaming on Showmax.