Friday, May 20, 2022

Now & Then, on Apple TV+

If you're a character who gets a lot of flashbacks, chances are you did some bad stuff in the past. Miami is flashback city for these five former high school friends. The word “friend” is overstating matters, but they definitely have some scandalous shared history that gets them blackmailed at the start of Ramon Campos, Teresa Fernandez-Valdes, and Gema R. Neira’s Now & Then, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

Twenty years ago, entitled Alejandro died under complicated circumstances that will take eight episodes of flashbacks to fully illuminate. An unrelated motorist also met her demise that night. Whatever happened, five former friends got away with it—then. Now, on the eve of their twenty-year reunion, an unknown blackmailer is demanding $1,000,000 each. Again, they think they get away with it when the blackmailer is murdered, even though the money is still missing, but the subsequent investigation turns into agonizing water torture.

As fate would have it, Sgt. Flora Neruda, the rookie detective on the case twenty years ago is now a veteran handling the contemporary investigation. Of course, she immediately links the two inquiries. She generates a lot of uncomfortable heat, especially for Pedro Cruz, who is the Democrat candidate for Miami Dade mayor, running on a platform of immigration liberalization (even though it is a federal issue). Inconveniently, he borrowed his share of the ransom from his campaign funds, which is highly illegal.

Sofia Mendieta also had trouble raising the funds, so she stole it from her criminal associate Bernie. To evade his thugs, she foists herself on her old flame, Marcos Herrero, whose wealthy but controlling father “fixed” everything twenty years ago. However, her presence is a little off-putting to his fiancée Isabel, but she tries to be cool, until their carrying-on just gets too blatant.

is all kinds of lurid and super-slick. In some ways, it is a throwback to the trashy miniseries of the 1980s. Apple is billing it as a “bilingual” series, but it is largely divorced from the culture and certainly the politics of Miami’s Cuban, Venezuelan, and Brazilian communities. However, there is sex and betrayal by the cigar-boat-load, so nobody is going to be bored by it.

In fact, the one-darned-revelation-after-another structure is pretty entertaining. Maribel Verdu (of
Pan’s Labyrinth and Blancanieves) is absolutely terrific as Mendieta, the home-wrecking femme fatale. She would be great in the next Dynasty reboot. Rosie Perez provides a grounded center as Neruda, the cop contending with breast cancer and bureaucratic red tape. However, Jose Maria Yazpik’s Cruz is such a wet noodle, it is hard to believe he could run for a seat on his condo board. However, Marina de Tavira is forceful Lady Macbeth opposite him, as his wife Ana Vargas. Unfortunately, the great Joaquim de Almeida is largely wasted as Bernie.

Some of
N&T’s secrets are pretty obvious but others are surprising. Frankly, the flashbacks to the past get a little tiresome. We get it, they are all messed up because of their mean parents or formative years of class envy. Just get on with the scheming and trysts, because they are amusing, in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Recommended for fans of dressed up soap operas for adults, Now & Then starts streaming today (5/20) on Apple TV+.