REVIEW: PLAYS LIKE FEIG'S 'A SIMPLE FAVOR' BY WAY OF 'VULGER AUTEUR DARLING BRIAN DE PALMA'
Premiering on HBO Max this Friday, The Flight Attendant is an eight-episode thriller series based on a novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian. According to Brent Hallenbeck at the Burlington Free Press, the novel "has undergone some major changes" for the HBO series, which was written by executive producer Steve Yockey, who, discussing the tone he was going for, mentions Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma:
Yockey, at the time working as a writer on the TV show “Supernatural,” was hired to oversee adapting “The Flight Attendant” to the screen.
“What Chris did so beautifully is create this kind of pressure cooker for Cassie,” Yockey said. But to adapt the story for a series, Yockey wanted to amplify some of the novel’s scenes.
“This event, this traumatizing event of waking up next to Alex’s body, kind of sends her on this ultimate journey that kind of makes her face the truth,” said Yockey, adding that the central theme of “The Flight Attendant” is “What happens when you have to stop lying to yourself?” He wanted to take a thriller and make it darkly comedic, in the vein of directors Alfred Hitchcock or Brian De Palma.
Yockey realized early that Cuoco was the right person for the job. “You kind of know 10 minutes after talking to her the first time, she has this incredible professional drive and this incredible specificity, but it’s there, this effervescence, this charm, this sense of ease that wants to pull you in,” Yockey said.
Bohjalian had almost no role in adapting the book for the screen. He had phone conversations and text exchanges with Cuoco early in the process and met her at a shoot in New York City last December.
“One of the great things about Kaley that was clear to me early on was how much respect she had for the material and how well she understood Cassie Bowden,” Bohjalian said, “so I knew it was in the best hands imaginable.”
He met Yockey at that December shoot as well. Bohjalian said he was struck by “how brilliantly he had plotted out what he wanted to do to turn this novel into eight hours of really fun, surprising, interesting television.”
Meanwhile, an early review of the HBO limited series by The Gate's Andrew Parker begins:
The limited series equivalent of a comedically nasty, but pleasingly intoxicating beach read, The Flight Attendant is an intricately drawn mystery that moves at a swift, effortlessly bingable pace. A project that finally gives star and producer Kaley Cuoco a proper, headlining showcase, The Flight Attendant deliriously rolls through its twists and turns through the lens of an unreliable, frequently blackout drunk narrator and the input of a long dead corpse. If that sounds strange, you’d be right, but within the weirdness of The Flight Attendant is an effective character study and a genuinely fun whodunit. The fact the show – adapted by series creator Steve Yockey from a novel by Chris Bohjalian – seems to have little clue where it’s heading next is part of the fun, and a great reflection of the trainwreck main character at its centre.
Later in the review, Parker brings up De Palma:
The tone of The Flight Attendant plays like Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor by way of vulgar auteur darling Brian De Palma, complete with an obvious affinity for multiple split-screens in every episode.The Flight Attendant is nasty business, but a lot of it is played for cheeky laughs that are both in bad taste and yet wholly appropriate given the outlandish premise. While The Flight Attendant handles Cassie’s alcoholism as appropriately tragic, the character herself comes down perfectly between self-awareness and obliviousness. Cassie isn’t a dummy, but she’s prone to doing stupid things in hopes of numbing the pain of her existence. She needs help, but her friends and co-workers have known her to be a functional alcoholic for so long that they figure Cassie will just figure things out on her own and come out on top in the end.