Riviera reveals itself in its opening credits, a dizzying, vacant kaleidoscope of villas and fine art. The 10-part Sundance Now drama, billed as a thriller, spends almost as much time luxuriating in wealth as it does telling its story. And that’s a shame, because an intriguing plot simmers behind those lingering shots of the Mediterranean coast.
Think of Riviera as Revenge in the south of France: Art curator Georgina (Julia Stiles) is dragged into a criminal underworld when her shady husband, Constantine (Anthony LaPaglia), dies in — yes — a yacht explosion. Even his death is stylish! As she uncovers her husband’s secret life, Georgina gets her hands dirty and tangles with Constantine’s family, particularly his first wife, Irina (Lena Olin), a steely matriarch looking to maintain control.
The two women spark as they test each other’s resolve; they are the show’s best dynamic, a refreshingly female take on crime empires and their fallout. And their game finds its pawns in the form of Irina and Constantine’s grown kids: charming eldest son Adam (Iwan Rheon), ruthless younger son and inheritor of the business Christos (Dimitri Leonidas), and brittle daughter Adriana (Roxane Duran).
But the strong cast is hampered by on-the-nose dialogue and unsteady pacing. Riviera teases curious twists — a hidden room, a message from beyond the grave, a survivor with a particular set of skills — only to fail to pay them as much attention as it pays its indulgent visuals. “Money,” Christos tells an eager room of investors, “desires nothing so much as to be itself.” But the show could desire more. B-