Credit: Peter Mountain/Netflix
by Emily DuGranrut Featured Film Streaming Scene

Scoop — Philip Martin

April 5, 2024

Netflix’s royal cash cow moos again with Scoop, a film so snugly nestled in The Crown’s shadow that it feels more like a Prince Edward than a King Charles III (a less-accomplished sibling, for the royally uninitiated). Directed by Philip Martin (who also helmed episodes of The Crown), Scoop rehashes the infamous 2019 BBC Newsnight debacle with Prince Andrew. Starring Rufus Sewell as the Duke of York and Gillian Anderson as journalist Emily Maitlis, Scoop feels more like a voyeuristic excuse to peek behind the curtain at Buckingham Palace’s not-so-secret scandals rather than an insightful drama in its own right. 

For those who don’t keep up with the royal drama, said 2019 interview is what forced Prince Andrew to step back from the public and caused him to lose his royal titles. In it, he detailed his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, talked about how he doesn’t sweat, and generally engaged in all manner of bufoonery. Based loosely on Sam McAlister’s (Billie Piper) memoir, a firsthand account of securing the interview with the Prince, Scoop seems more content to tread water in the shallow end than tackle anything meaningful or not already glibly available in a Wikipedia summary of these events. It’s as if Martin and screenwriter Peter Moffat aspire to nothing more than playing dress-up with the facts, gussying them up for a night out but adding nothing of substance in its fictionalization.

Comparisons to The Crown are inevitable. Yet where that show managed to weave historical detail with genuine character complexity, Scoop is as limp as these true-story accounts come, turning a potentially gripping chapter of royal infamy into lackluster melodrama. There are myriad scandals plaguing the Royal Family at any given time — from the soap opera of King Charles III’s love life to #KateGate to the myriad other historical skeletons stuffed in the royal closets — but Andrew’s alleged crimes are far more serious than any other known transgressions, making Scoop’s reductive, sub-Daily Mail narrative that risks no more than skirting the edges even more disappointing.

Anderson, in a performance that feels more like a redux of her Margaret Thatcher in The Crown, offers nothing new as Maitlis, turning in low energy work that baffling seems little different in execution than that previous role. Sewell, meanwhile, affixed though he is with prosthetic jowls, barely scratches the surface of Andrew’s notorious confidence and nonchalance. And yet, this duo’s performances still reflect some of the film’s more redeemable qualities — at least in fits and starts — as Scoop is otherwise feeling marooned by a script that sidelines all other characters; poor McAlister, whose memoir promised a behind-the-scenes exposé, is reduced to a bit part in her own story.

Ultimately, then, Scoop registers not a failure of skill but of nerve. In an already crowded market of royal dramatizations in desperate need of a new style or perspective, Martin’s film bafflingly takes the path of least resistance, serving up a narrative so palatable and risk-free it borders on (and spills into) the bland. Its most glaring sin is its remarkable hesitancy to tackle the thornier truths of the saga — which are no secret even to the layperson, so the cowardice is confusing — instead opting for a glossy, superficial glance at a devastating scandal. The result is a film as memorable as last week’s tabloid — its flashy invocation of the sensational is momentarily distracting, but a fatal lack of weight and conviction keep it in the realm of the purely disposable.

DIRECTOR: Philip Martin;  CAST: Billie Piper, Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Keeley Hawes;  DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix;  STREAMING: April 5;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 41 min.