“The Act”: true crime, truly bizarre

True crime dramatization is a hard genre to master, often playing out on the screen more like a low budget B movie than a feature quality production. Hulu’s new series “The Act” has managed to capture the genre in a smooth and interesting way that engages viewers with solid acting and one of the most bizarre murder stories in recent history.

“The Act” follows the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who was an accomplice to the murder of her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard on June 14, 2015. Dee Dee suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), a condition in which a person acts as though an individual in their care has a physical or mental illness, when in fact the person isn’t really sick. The victim of someone suffering from this condition is often subject to medical procedures and treatments that do physical and mental harm

In the first episode of “The Act,” we are introduced to the overbearing Dee Dee Blanchard, who is played by Patricia Arquette, and her wheelchair-bound daughter Gypsy Rose, played by Joey King.

At first, viewers will feel sorry for young Gypsy, who apparently suffers from leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy, a sugar allergy, and a laundry list of other maladies. Because of her ailments, young Gypsy isn’t able to fit in with other children her age, and the first episode expresses the sadness of Gypsy’s existence as she sits alone at a party in her honor.

We quickly learn that all isn’t as it appears when Gypsy sneaks a cupcake at the party and is stabbed with an EpiPen by her hysterically screeching mother. Gypsy is then rushed to the hospital via ambulance. In the hospital, Gypsy overhears the doctor telling her mother she isn’t allergic to sugar, a statement her mother shrugs off as medical incompetence.

Gypsy begins to question her ailments, and once she gets home she starts a steady diet of Coca-Cola and candy as her mother sleeps. The large amount of sugar leads to cavities, and instead of minor dental work, Dee Dee instead insists that the dentist must extract all of Gypsy’s teeth.

As fiction, The Act would be unwatchable. It is over the top and so unbelievable that it’s hard to watch. Viewers that fact check the series, however, will find that the series portrays the actual events with startling accuracy. Yes, all of these things did actually happen. Viewers may also be turned off by King’s squeaky childlike voice, which is highly annoying, but again it is based on the speaking mannerisms of real-life Gypsy Rose. King portrays the real-life character brilliantly.

Despite King’s first-rate performance, Patricia Arquette steals the show. Arquette portrays Dee Dee Blanchard so well that it is difficult at times to remember she is acting. Her facial expressions are brilliantly displayed in every scene whether she is feigning concern over her “sick” daughter or glaring at an intruding social worker she views as a threat to her ruse. Arquette exudes evil and cunning that is chilling, to say the least.

For any true crime enthusiast, “The Act” is a must-watch miniseries. It’s so authentic that some viewers will want to turn it off after the second episode due to the disturbing nature of the case. The strangeness of the Blanchard case will keep viewers glued to the television, despite the anxiety-inducing plot.