Review: A Shirtless Ricky Martin and Hilarious Kristen Wiig Shine in 'Palm Royale'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

With tart writing and gorgeous production design, the 1969-set Apple TV+ series "Palm Royale" pairs Ricky Martin and Kristen Wiig in a 10-episode rom-com of a different sort that's stuffed with fresh surprises.

Wiig plays Maxine, the bubbly (and utterly unreliable) heroine of the piece – a beauty queen from Tennessee who's determined to become one of the elite women who frequent the exclusive Palm Royale club and rule the social scene in Palm Beach. Maxine's unstoppable combination of brass, naïveté, and optimism enables her to scale over, or simply smash through, any barrier (physical, economic, or otherwise) that stands between her and a world of glamor where, she imagines, everything is high fashion and cool cocktails. But will she have to compromise her own questionable ethics to ascend to the upper crust? And once she's there, will it be everything she's dreamed of?

The town's ruling doyennes might have something to say about her incursion onto their turf. With the long-reigning Norma (Carol Burnett, masterfully comedic as always) in a coma following an embolism, it's Evelyn (Allison Janney) – whose ambitions equal Maxine's, but whose foothold in society was established decades ago – who's poised to rise to prominence. To Evelyn, Maxine is "the tip of the spear" that presages disintegration. Even as America at large is threatened by women demanding equality, Evelyn sees in Maxine a chaotic energy that will lead to, as she puts it, "a world of unbridled venal selfishness."

It's a world that has until now been reserved for men like strutting local real estate developer Perry (Jordan Bridges) and just-out-of-jail mobster Pinky Donohue (Roberto Sanchez), both of whom happen to be married to other major players in the Palm Beach social scene. Then there's Norma's nephew, Douglas (Josh Lucas), an ebullient guy who's been away from town for far too long and who's been drawn back by the scent of a juicy inheritance about to come to fruition.

But even as Maxine finds her way among the town's leading ladies (with the help... unwilling, at first... of a club bartender named Robert, played by Martin), she finds herself drawn into another complicated orbit: that of Linda (Laura Dern), who helps run a feminist bookstore called "Our Bodies, Our Shelves," which hosts meetings attended by the very women's equality enthusiasts Evelyn abhors.

Belonging to neither world, juggling the mounting debts and other complications that result from her charade of being a woman of means, and exploring her own unexpected connections to the town and its secrets, Maxine fumbles her way into the very nexus of Palm Beach's social scene: the pages of local gossip rag The Shiny Sheet and, along with it, the annual Beach Ball.

As sprawling as the show's storylines and cast of characters might be, it all comes back to Maxine and Robert, an unlikely pair that bristle and broil at each other and, refreshingly, find someplace other than the boudoir to land. Despite that, Martin spends enough time shirtless to thrill his fans. What's more, the series uses its midcentury setting to make some lacerating commentary about the world we live in right now.

Created by Abe Sylvia and based on the novel "Mr. and Mrs. American Pie" by Juliet McDaniel, the series sparkles like champagne and offers a scintillating cast that includes Bruce Dern, Leslie Bibb, Mindy Cohn, and Dominic Burgess. The latter installments start to feel a little too busy and a bit too pat, but the show's overall effervescence (plus lots of clever little gags littering every episode) pulls it through.

"Palm Royale" premieres on Apple TV+ on March 20.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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