Saturday, October 20, 2018

The hot new Netflix series from Spain, entitled ELITE, proves sensational twice over

There are two major meanings of the word "sensational," and both easily fit the new Spanish series streaming now on Netflix. The first refers to something causing great public interest and excitement (synonyms: shocking, scandalous, appalling), the second tackles the quality of that thing: very impressive, gorgeous, stunning, captivating, and so forth. ELITE, which is set in an uber-high-end prep school in Spain in which the students, hormone-fueled to the max, engage in all kinds of sex -- straight, gay, and even threesomes -- proves sensational on both fronts.

The product of a pair of well-known Spanish writers/producers (shown above, respectively right and left), Darío Madrona (Vive cantando) and Carlos Montero (The Time in Between), Elite will be quite enough for some viewers interested in watching a group of gorgeous young actors, clothed and unclothed, getting it on. That we come to know and understand these kids so well and begins to care about them more and more as the series progresses is due to the exceptional writing and the crack performances given by every last cast member.

In conception and execution, Elite proves exactly that. The plot kicks into action as a trio of new students -- a Muslim girl and two boys of clearly working-class status, above (above, left to right: Itzan Escamilla, Mina El Hammani, and Miguel Herrán) -- are introduced into this high school made up of the sons and daughters of Spain's exclusive and entitled one per cent (two of which are shown below: Ester Expósito and Álvaro Rico)  Divisions are immediately drawn -- by the end of the first episode we know that a murder has been committed -- and the following seven episodes are devoted to blurring those divisions.

We soon find that we are seeing some good in the kids we initially despised, while finding fault with those we liked and most rooted for. In short, the characters here are rounded; they grow and they change. Some more than others, and some very little (especially the nasty, rich bitch below, played to near-perfection by Danna Paola), and their movements back and forth as they learn who they are, along with who their friends really are (or aren't) makes the series grow ever richer.

The Spanish, bless 'em, may be the best purveyors of melodrama in the world (followed perhaps by the South Koreans). Grand Hotel is of course the sterling example for our millennium, with so many other series like La casa de papel (known as Money Heist on Netflix) not far behind. Is this creative ability built into the Spanish DNA? One does have to wonder because -- so clever is the plotting, so fine the casting and characterizations, and so spectacular the production design and visuals -- little else compares.

The series is said to have raised eyebrows and hackles in its native Spain, ostensibly for its sexuality. (That's Arón Piper , left, with newcomer Omar Ayuso, above.) But I do wonder if, on a deeper level, it's the cynical "take" on the children of the one per cent, and their powerful, mostly despicable parents holding onto to power by any means necessary, that has riled the powers-that-be even more.

The attitude here is mostly progressive, including even the sex-and-sin portions, which are plentiful. Though we know the murder victim early on (this is nothing like Big Little Lies), the identity of the murderer remains hidden until the finale. (That's Miguel Bernardeau, above right, as the most entitled and pushy of the elite crew.)

Any justice, however, will have to be meted out during Elite's second season. There will surely be one, as the first season has been a major hit, with its popularity only growing as more countries discover its pleasures. Above, right, is Jaime Lorente, who plays the pivotal older brother of one of the new students. Both he and Senor Herrán (standing, below, center, and at bottom, left), are also stars of the Money Heist series. The two are clearly talented and versatile performers, with Herrán quite the little scene-stealer.

Probably the most problemed and difficult of all these characters is our sort-of heroine, Marina, played by María Pedraza, below, whose behavior and decisions will have you rooting for her one minute and wanting to smack her the next. Ms Pedraza was also in Money Heist, playing the pivotal character of Alison Parker. She is so different here as to be very nearly unrecognizable, yet in her own strange way, she holds the series' first season together.

You can stream Elite now, here in the USA and elsewhere via Netflix. Do give it a try. TrustMovies' blood pressure is still raised a bit, thanks to all the provocative goings-on.

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