Until I happened upon this Amazon show after renewing my Prime trial to buy a last-minute bikini, I didn’t know how badly I wanted to watch a turn-of-the-century psychodrama about missing women in Australia.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is an Amazon Prime original adaptation about three hot senior high school-age girls at a remote Australian boarding school in 1900, who mysteriously disappear with their teacher while at a picnic in some spooky woods at the foot of the titular landmark.
Based on the Joan Lindsay novel of the same name, the six-episode series stars our girl
Marjorie Natalie Dormer, except now her name is – get this – Hester Appleyard 😂 She struts around her castle of a college in the most GOT-worthy outfits and it’s just the best. So much of the show’s mood comes from long bleary shots of her shadow skulking down the mansions dimly candlelit hallways, so I was reminded instantly of Turn of the Screw and felt incredibly validated when a character in the show referenced the novel outright.
But my God the outfits.
Dainty white lace dresses, ample ruffles, puffy shoulders, Botticelli curls everywhere. Never have I wanted to wear a full-length skirt so badly.
I particularly enjoyed the way the period costumes were juxtaposed with modern editing touches and feminine typography, with a style that reminded me of Sofia Coppola’s movies – particularly Marie Antoinette. (Apparently Coppola cited Peter Weil’s film adaptation of the same story as an inspiration for her own work, so I might be 2 for 2 on references right now.)
The best part of Picnic is the mood it casts like a spell, with dreamy, slightly witchy vibes, kind of like if Heathers met The Craft and threw a garden party. Better yet, I really loved Madison’s description: “‘Picnic’ is a wild fever dream of a show that mixes soap-opera camp with David Lynch-style surrealism into a heady brew.” Basically, it’s got all my favorite things!
Picnic really reminded me at times of The Kettering Incident, which was set in Tasmania and also featured surreal and unsettling landscapes that were practically characters themselves, populated by neurotic white people with a proclivity for getting lost in those mysterious and unknowable forests. In both shows there’s a sense that the land itself is rejecting its colonization, and it’s striking back by driving all the characters insane. I’m trying to be better about the spoilers thing so I won’t say more, but the show certainly gives you a lot to ponder.
This show tickled all my Twin Peaks fancies, and I felt like my high school required reading experiences paid off at the same time. Binge it when you’re in the mood to disappear down a fabulous rabbit hole.