Disclaimer – The authors of this blog also run the firth.com fan website.
Some reviews are already in and most are positive. Colin Firth is back! He’s in this new series “The Staircase” with new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max. The story is about the suspicious death of Kathleen Peterson (Toni Collette), the trial of her husband Michael (Colin Firth) and the arrival of a documentary crew from France. This Antonio Campos limited drama series is based on the 2004 true crime docuseries of the same name.
Is this the first movie Colin has played with Parker Posey? This is what the New Yorker had to say: ” In “The Staircase,” which was based in part on a docuseries of the same name, Posey plays the late Freda Black, the assistant district attorney in the murder trial of Michael Peterson (Colin Firth), a wealthy North Carolina writer whose wife, Kathleen (Toni Collette), was found dead at the bottom of their mansion stairs. Black distinguished herself in the courtroom with clownish eye makeup and pearl-clutching appeals to the jury, but Posey told me that she saw more in the character than campy antics. For one thing, Parker had never before played a fellow Southern woman.”
Stay tuned to this website for future updates every Thursday as the series progresses. And stay tuned also for our Thursday after-the-show-release watch party on zoom.
- RogerEbert.com Nick Allen May 4, 2022 “The Staircase” is both a masterful moment for an assured filmmaker, and it’s the jolt that the true crime storytelling industry needs. … The ensemble work in this series is a veritable feast, of calibrated performances, framing and editing, scene after scene. Read full review
- San Francisco Chronicle Chris Vognar May 3, 2022 “The Staircase” is exceptionally smart television, an examination of truth, guilt and self-delusion that crackles with ideas and great performances. Read full review
- Collider Carly Lane Apr 27, 2022 Watching this show not only makes the case for revisiting the documentary too; it demands a tandem viewing, with each successfully complementing the other in its existence. Read full review
- Consequence Clint WorthingtonApr 27, 2022 In its painterly flourishes, and its willingness to poke at the moroseness of true crime stories from time to time, The Staircase proves gripping television. Read full review
- The Playlist Brian Tallerico Apr 27, 2022 This story really has it all, and Campos clearly gets all of it. His obsession with the case pays off as he turns it into high drama, and high art. Read full review
- The Daily Beast Nick Schager There’s a richness to The Staircase that’s partly due to Michael’s multifaceted and winding odyssey—before and after trial—and partly the result of Campos’ expert approach, which incorporates virtually every important aspect of this story, evokes dread, ambiguity and topsy-turviness via meticulous long-take tracking shots, and sharply delineates every one of its numerous principals and their hopelessly fraught dynamics. Read full review
- Boston GlobeMatthew Gilbert May 5, 2022 A beautifully done miniseries, and revelatory, too, as it expands the North Carolina case into something more philosophically provocative than its sensationalistic origins might have suggested. Read full review
- VarietyDaniel D’AddarioMay 4, 2022 This series is more concerned with asking questions than with making statements. It follows the evidence where it leads: What’s refreshing is that that evidence is less about guilt or innocence in a case on which the court has ruled, but about the strangeness and unknowability of the human heart. Read full review ABC NewsPeter TraversMay 6, 2022
- Chicago TribuneMichael Phillips May 5, 2022 Exceptionally good. Amid a river of true-crime dramatizations featuring big names side-eyeing their co-stars while contemplating murder, or their characters’ tragically misunderstood innocence, this one knows what it’s doing. It sets a tone, gets everybody in the same movie and focuses on character interaction in long, fluid takes, glance by glance, bizarre development by development. Read full review
- The A.V. Club Alison Foreman May 6, 2022 Through this churn of grief-stricken family turmoil and legal strategizing, The Staircase has begun a treacherous ascent toward saying something truly meaningful. It’s messy and massive in both scope and ambition. But whether that effort will be enough to justify retrying this case remains to be seen. Read full review
- IndieWireBen Travers Apr 27, 2022 Campos trusts his cast to find the right notes, while coordinating the timelines so the black comic bits never overwhelm the story’s urgent drama. Together, these human elements work to reinforce the series’ examination of subjectivity. Read full review
- New York Magazine (Vulture)Jen ChaneyMay 6, 2022 It’s hard to imagine gleaning something new from a subject that’s already been explored via multiple hours of television. But The Staircase, which casts Colin Firth in the role of Michael and Toni Collette as Kathleen, defies expectations, adding new perspective and dimension to a well-known story while creating an experience that differs from the docuseries. Read full review
- The Oregonian Kristi Turnquist May 5, 2022 As Michael Peterson, Colin Firth manages to make us think he’s guilty as hell one minute, and possibly innocent the next. Toni Collette is touching as Kathleen. And while many a series has caused eyes to glaze over when the plot shifts to younger characters, the dynamics among grown children in this extended family are consistently absorbing. Read full review
- The GuardianLucy ManganMay 5, 2022 All in all, a staircase well worth climbing. Read full review
- DeciderJoel Keller May 5, 2022 As a whole, The Staircase is a worthwhile watch, mainly for the performances by Firth, Posey and Collette. But you might get more satisfying information about the Peterson case by watching the documentary or docuseries. Read full review
- The Telegraph Anita Singh May 5, 2022 The series takes its time to uncover the problems going on beneath the surface of this family. Kathleen is played in flashback by Toni Collette, giving us a chance to understand the victim in a way that the documentary could never deliver. Read full review
- CNNBrian Lowry May 5, 2022 While the episodes occasionally grind too slowly, Colin Firth’s riveting work as the hard-to-read suspect elevates this HBO Max limited series several steps above standard true-crime fare. Read full review
- Vanity FairRichard Lawson May 4, 2022 The Staircase, especially in the reenactment scenes I mentioned, is not easy viewing. But it steadily builds into something vital, a calmly observational dissection of known and unknown things. Read full review
- Time Judy Berman Apr 27, 2022 With additional context comes an even greater sense that no secondhand account of what happened on that staircase—whether generated by the prosecution, the defense, or Lestrade—will ever approach the objective truth. The linchpin of this delicate portrayal is Colin Firth’s performance as Michael. … Although the multiple graphic set pieces that dramatize various theories of how Kathleen died struck me as excessively invasive, for the most part, the flashbacks work to restore her personhood. Read full review
- USA TodayKelly Lawler May 4, 2022 Firth feels a bit too handsome and wholesome to play a potential murderer at first, but he effectively imbues Michael with sleaze. He’s fascinating to watch it only because it’s such a departure for him. Read full review
- Chicago Sun-TimesRichard Roeper May 3, 2022 This is a well-written drama with clearly defined characters, but it still took me a couple of episodes to figure out everyone’s place on the complicated family tree. … Toni Collette gives Kathleen a voice through the flashback sequences, and the young actors playing their children are all excellent. “The Staircase” keeps us in its grips throughout. Read full review
- Los Angeles Times Robert Lloyd May 5, 2022 It covers miles more ground, is not without ideas and marshals the power of HBO to gather stars, budget and screen time. And is good, if at times unavoidably problematic. Read full review
- The Hollywood Reporter Dan FienbergMay 3, 2022 So far, The Staircase is a good series about a great documentary, but it has the potential to become very good in the home stretch Read full review
- Washington PostInkoo Kang May 5, 2022 In the end, its pleasures are rather cerebral, less a whodunit than a story about telling stories — and the omissions in hopeful service of a greater truth. Read full review
- The Independent Nick Hilton Apr 27, 2022 Campos brings visual panache to the project – interspersing, for example, scenes of a fundraiser for Peterson’s abortive mayoral campaign with a walkthrough of the crime scene by a squad of forensic experts – but can never quite surmount the old aphorism that truth is stranger than fiction. Read full review
- Wall Street Journal John Anderson May 4, 2022 It’s a complicated case, one that probably deserved its eight episodes to lay out properly, but Mr. Campos hardly makes economical use of his time. The frequent flashings back and forth in time are confusing, the relationships between Peterson family members are never sufficiently explained. … Mr. Firth and Ms. Collette, as the loving couple who may have hated each other, are playing complex characters with Emmy-worthy aplomb. … But they find themselves in the middle of a messy business. Read full review
- Paste Magazine Shane Ryan May 4, 2022 Firth and Collette are “good,” I guess, and so is the rest of the cast, from Michael Stuhlbarg as the defense attorney David Rudolf to Sophie Turner as Margaret Ratliff, but there is just nothing here to draw interest, much less sustain it, and good actors with no material are like jugglers having to pantomime the balls. Impressive, but only for about 10 seconds. In two words, this is dull fare.
And these are the reviews of the original French documentary (we’ll try and dig it up)
Whet Moser Makes a compelling companion piece to Netflix’s hit series in its remarkable similarities and considerable differences. On the most basic level, it’s like a proof of concept for the documentary serials that follow. Read full review
Maureen Ryan The documentary keeps adding layers of complexity to the tale until one is entirely hooked by its ambiguities and twists and turns — and soon, as with a great novel, one can’t wait to see what happens next.
Virginia Heffernan It may seem ludicrous to say that a movie running more than six hours is well edited, but The Staircase, by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, is. And not only is the editing prize-worthy, but the whole film is also so brilliantly conceived, reported, filmed and paced that you may come to wish it were twice as long. Read full review
Tony Dokoupil The Staircase is the scariest portrait of criminal justice since the nonfiction film that helped launch the modern innocence movement, Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line. It’s scarier, in fact, because The Staircase isn’t based on re-creations but on original footage, a front-row view of legal truth as it’s feathered into existence, manufactured from guesses and conjecture, and sold to a jury as more or less believable fiction. Read full review
Nathan Rabin There’s a surprising amount of humor in the series, as when a sassy male prostitute admits in court that his client base included many professionals, including attorneys and at least one judge, but the series’ power, gravity, and urgency come because viewers are never allowed to forget that a man’s life and a family’s future is at stake. Read full review
The official HBO Max podcast hosted by Nancy Miller (HBO’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Podcast). The Staircase Podcast takes an episode-by-episode deep dive into the highly anticipated drama. Miller interviews both cast and crew to unpack how the true story was brought to life on screen, as well as case experts and academics to unpack the science, history, and psychology behind the case. The Staircase Podcast is produced by HBO Max in conjunction with Campfire Studios, in association with High Five Content. LISTEN NOW