Show Me a Hero written by David Simon and directed by Paul Haggis (Blown Deadline Productions, Pretty Pictures, Home Box Office)
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carla Quevedo, Alfred Molina, Ilfenesh Hadera, Natalie Paul, Peter Riegert, Jon Bernthal, Winona Ryder, and Brianna Horne.
“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
The path of righteousness is a lonely road. The right side of history does not often equate with the populace. When a hero takes a stand, you better bet she’ll face opposition. It’s the nature of the beast. Even more interesting are the people whose leadership emerges in shades of gray. Taking a stand occurs as a matter of convenience, or as the best of bad options.
Such a position represents a leadership where the right decisions occurs, despite the noblest of intentions.
Yet whether or you’ve chosen the high road, the repercussions can be vast. Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.
A Riveting Drama of Public Housing
David Simon’s miniseries, Show Me a Hero, provides riveting drama around public housing. The narrative follows the city of Yonkers during turbulent times from 1987 to 1994. In an effort to desegregate housing, federal judge Leonard Sand (Bob Balaban) issues an order for 200 public housing units to be built on the east side of Yonkers in affluent, largely white neighborhoods.
Encouraged by their constituents, the city council fights the ruling in court and the show’s primary character, Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac) wins his mayoral race against Angelo Martinelli (Jim Belushi) largely on the promise that he would keep fighting the housing legislation in court.
And yet after his history making victory, Wasicsko quickly learns of his plight. The legal system has run its course and the housing must happen, lest Yonkers gets fined into bankruptcy and loses its critical infrastructure (e.g., police, fire, etc.).
And so Wasicsko begins his lonely crusade in attempt to make the best of a difficult situation. He must keep the city afloat and he must vote for this housing, at the expense of his career.
As the miniseries unfolds, we see such a vulnerable character portrayed by Isaac. Surely, award nominations are in the future for this role, as Isaac’s Wasicsko struggles to hold on as he sees a career crumble around him just as he begins to understand that he was on the right side of history.
His insecurities emerge on screen such as you see his desire for a heartfelt embrace with his wife, Nay (Carla Quevedo), or a last-gasp attempt at a political seat.
The direction from Paul Haggis leads the viewer to feel the true-story nature of the miniseries. Many of the shots frame themselves with obstructions in the way, allowing the viewer to feel like they were part of the crowd during this raucous time.
And perhaps most poignantly, Simon chooses to frame this story of vicious politicking against the small-but-profound stories of families in the projects, looking for that minute step toward a better life, that one thing they can call “mine” to cherish and preserve.
The cramped and consolidated projects, full of graffiti and drugs, can recede in replacement of something with the stamp of “home.” With a sense of ownership, good things can happen; lives can be remade.
A hero’s journey in real life often ends in heartache for the hero and blessing for those he touches, even if he never quite understands what he’s done for those he’ll never know.
Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.
Verdict: 5 out of 5