On Monday, audiences at the Cannes film festival watched the premiere of HBO’s controversial new show The Idol, according to Collider. Many first reactions from the premiere call the series disgusting and convey a strong dislike for how the story covers its subject matter.
The Idol stars Lily-Rose Depp (The Dancer, The King), as Jocelyn, a young pop star looking to make it big in Hollywood. She runs into a cult leader and self-help guru named Tedros, played by Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye. As they join together in a working relationship, they begin what seems to be a manipulative romantic relationship. Through the story, audiences can expect a story about fame and Hollywood and its effects on those working in it. The series is created, written, produced, and directed by Sam Levinson (Euphoria).
The Idol’s first trailer showcased expensive cars, wild parties, and intense sexual themes. Further, rumors of an alleged toxic workplace and intense creative differences that caused reshoots and a former director’s departure have come out. Needless to say, a great deal of controversy has followed the series’ subject matter and production.
Reactions from those who watched the first two episodes at the premiere fall in line with these controversies. Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh shared a number of reactions on Twitter, including “The TV version of clickbait” and “I don’t need to see any more of Lily-Rose Depp naked.” Variety’s Tatiana Seigel discussed similar reactions like “garbage,” but she also highlighted praise for Depp’s performance like “She’s way better than I thought she would be.” Film critic Yasmine Kandil also praised Depp’s performance, saying that it was “undoubtedly her strongest performance.” Kandil also praised elements of The Idol as a whole, saying it “could be stellar if streamlined to be a story solely about artistic struggle and management without excessive sensuality.” New York Times’ Kyle Buchannan called the series a “Pornhub-homepage odyssey.” IndieWire’s Eric Kohn said The Idol is “like if somebody put BLACK SWAN, SUCCESSION, and SECRETARY in a blender and let it rip.” He told audiences to “Prepare” themselves “for quite the discourse.”
Tesfaye spoke about the response to the premiere at a Cannes press conference, according to Billboard. He told reporters that he and Levinson wanted to make “something special, something fun, to make people laugh, piss some people off.” According to Indiwire, Levinson also made a statement, saying “ We know we are making a show that is provocative. It is not lost on us, but it’s an odd one.”
Audiences can watch The IdoI on Max for themselves when it airs on June 5, 2023.