Costume drama from an American perspective with a feminist approach that is not entirely preserved.
Around 1870, a group of American girlfriends are shipped to London to each snare a rich man after one of them marries an Englishman. This culture clash is an introduction The Buccaneers not only to early love, but also a love triangle, power relations and feminist revelations. This is accompanied by a soundtrack of modern music sung by women. But post-Bridgerton this makes little impression and the series mainly becomes a paean to the exuberant character of Americans.
Friends Nan, Conchita, Jinny, Mabel and Lizzy are typical rebellious American teenagers of the late nineteenth century. They take up space, dance exuberantly, share their opinions and above all know what they want in life. Due to the contrast with the traditionalism of the British, their arrival immediately causes unrest. With a group of young adult main characters, the viewer can expect a lot of accompanying drama.
The Buccaneers is a film adaptation of a 1995 miniseries, which in turn is based on the 1936 book of the same name. It is not a direct film adaptation of that book, due to the elements that come exclusively from the earlier miniseries. At the time, the addition of a lesbian storyline was something that offended many viewers, while with the current LGBTQI representation in the media, it is no longer shocking but almost expected. That doesn’t take away from this specific storyline, which is well put together.
The first half of the season is very strong. All individual storylines are set up and the underlying relationships are formed at a pleasant pace. The most unique angle (at least for a costume drama) is the unconditional sisterly bond between the five friends. Where series like this usually give misogynous undertones to friendships, the women support them The Buccaneers each other always. In the acting, the mutual bonds are portrayed with so much love that every laugh and every tear is believable.
It’s quite impressive that these emotions come out so well, given the dialogue that accompanies them. With awkward and stereotypical sentences everywhere, the spoken aspect leaves a lot to be desired. It shows the qualities of the actors that they can show credible acting, but this does not prevent the viewer from being easy to predict how conversations will proceed.
Two performances that deserve extra praise are those of Kristine Froseth and Christina Hendricks as Nan and her mother. Both actresses know how to portray the complications of their characters with great integrity and immediately capture all the attention as soon as they walk into the screen. Beautiful, considering all the frills and extravagant decors. Although both storylines are not developed equally thoroughly, the layered nature of their performances offers more than enough reason to want to continue watching. This is the element that makes the series worth watching.
Unfortunately, there are a number of less credible performances, with that of Adam James as Nan’s father as the most painful example. Not only is his delivery of the dialogue emotionless, but the character is also wildly unsubtle. As a result, the intended praise for the American elite becomes an exaggeration of their selfishness and lack of intelligence. The contrast with the British nobility makes him seem terribly clumsy, which at some points trickles down to other characters.
The pace slows down a bit halfway through, actually as soon as the friends and their new loves return to London. And while that’s usually the point at which characters’ inner issues are explored, it remains in The Buccaneers fairly superficial. As a costume drama about coming of age, the series shoots itself in the fingers a little too often.
Around this same point, the original feminist approach seems to be abandoned, while previously the friends still stood strong and mainly did what they wanted. As a result, the unique angle gradually fades and the series increasingly disappears into the costume drama crowd. This makes later events less impactful, which is a shame given the denouement presented.
The viewer must suddenly bring out all the emancipating character traits in rapid succession. Although the conclusion of the story is immensely satisfying, the jump into action remains quite abrupt. In principle there is nothing wrong with that, but given the episodes in which little happens, there was more than enough room for a better build-up. Nevertheless, it is The Buccaneers highly recommended for fans of costume dramas, especially because of the fresh focus on the Americans. In any case, a cliffhanger leaves the door wide open for a second season.
The Buccaneers can be seen on Apple TV+.