The Crowded Room is the story of Danny Sullivan, a strange but tortured character played by Tom Holland (Spiderman). While we used to see the latter in teenage roles, he finds himself here in a much more adult and all the more fascinating story. The actor finally shows that he has more talent than what he can show in Spiderman in this adaptation of the novel by Daniel Keyes (The Thousand and One Lives of Billy Milligan). Akiva Goldman (An Exceptional Man, Batman Forever) delivers here a scenario constructed in a way that is sometimes a bit strange. We have two different temporalities and these two temporalities sometimes mix strangely. Especially during the first two episodes of The Crowded Room which are not really the best the series offers. You have to let yourself be seduced, let yourself be carried away by the story but also understand all the issues. By putting in a lot of hard-to-digest stuff from the start, The Crowded Room struggles to show its fangs. It is in the third episode that the series can really start (even if it will subsequently experience its ups and downs).
Danny Sullivan is arrested following his involvement in a shooting in New York in 1979. Based on a series of interrogations led by the scheming Rya Goodwin, this thriller uncovers Danny’s life, from the mysterious elements of the past that shaped the twists and turns that would lead him to a life-changing revelation.
Tom Holland is perfect from start to finish in this miniseries. This is also the first thing I want to remember and perhaps the opportunity for him to show that he no longer has to stay stuck in teenage roles. I hope The Crowded Room will open new doors for him (a bit like Robert Pattinson when the latter wanted to break his image as Twilight vampires). What I also find unfortunate with The Crowded Room is that the mini-series doesn’t always know what it wants to be. So certainly the psychology of the hero, as fascinating as it is, takes up a huge place but it is intertwined with a lot of other elements which are not all exciting either. The story of The Crowded Room remains crazy because it is inspired by a true story: that of the first man in the history of the United States who was acquitted while pleading for dissociative personality disorder.
With ten episodes (probably too many!), The Crowded Room has time to develop its hero and its different stories. We don’t necessarily know what we’re getting into at the start, but the series quickly allows us to identify where it’s coming from. The mystery (or mysteries) of The Crowded Room aren’t always very well brought on because they remain obvious. Let’s say that the predictable side of the story remains a slight flaw. It’s a shame because it made The Crowded Room feel sloppy at times. Some episodes tell little and drag on a lot of things without really offering anything surprising. It is therefore on the talent of its cast and a rather neat staging that the story focuses. Too bad because there was much better to do with an initial idea that is not without echoing the film by M. Night Shyamalan: Split. But the talent of Tom Holland makes it possible here to forget certain defects.
Rating: 4.5/10. In short, it’s a pity that the series draws so much in length so little, which leaves the story wither quickly without real brilliance. Rest Tom Holland, excellent from start to finish.
Available on Apple TV+