Scoop (dir. Philip Martin)

By: Meghan Winebrenner

Following the success of Spotlight and The Post, newsroom dramas have gained popularity amongst filmmakers causing an oversaturation of the genre subset. While these films are compelling, the excessive rate of their production is causing a lack of interest amongst fans. For a newsroom story to be told effectively, there needs to be a sense of completion to the real life news story as well. Turning true to life events into entertainment only breeds success when there is a sense of finality amongst audiences.  There is a comfort in knowing how the story ends, and that is the dilemma faced by Netflix’s film Scoop: the headline is still a headline. Director Philip Martin (The Forger) adapts Sam McAlister’s autobiography Scoops which recounts the lead up to the infamous interview with Prince Andrew that caused him to step down from royal duties. While Scoop is relevant and engaging, the true story might be too current to be told at a glance. 

Scoop follows Newsnight’s talent booker Sam McAlister, portrayed by Billie Piper (Catherine Called Birdy), as she struggles to navigate the late show’s tense newsroom. Sam wants the show to remain relevant, and she fears that their coverage has gotten too repetitive. With layoffs looming, Sam attempts to secure headline making guests that would catapult Newsnight to the front page of the next day’s papers. Through her search for relevance, Sam discovers New York paparazzi Jae Donnelly, portrayed by Connor Swindells (Barbie), who is responsible for the curious photos of Prince Andrew and Jeffery Epstein on a friendly walk in New York. While Jae and Sam begin to develop a working relationship, Donnelly’s resurfaced photo sparks buzz at Buckingham Palace, causing Prince Andrew’s personal secretary Amanda Thrisk, portrayed by Keeley Hawes (Bodyguard), frustration and sadness. She believes the photograph to be the reason why the Prince’s charitable events do not receive any coverage by the press, and she wants to try and change the public's perception of the infamous royal. Sam, upon learning more about the Epstein scandal, reaches out to Amanda to try and learn more about the man behind the scandal and together the two make a plan to schedule a sit-down interview with Prince Andrew at Newsnight.

While Martin’s drama shares a fresh tale that’s culturally relevant, the film feels too much like an aspiring version of Jay Roach’s Bombshell (2019).  It tells a similar true story of sexual abuse by men in power, followed by elements of female empowerment, but the proceedings of Jeffery Epstein and Prince Andrew doesn’t give audiences the same type of closure that the Roger Ailes and Fox News scenario does. That is more so due to the historical context surrounding Scoop, and not the mistake of the filmmakers. The choice to primarily follow Sam through the interview process is a good one, but because Sam’s greatest desire is to be in the room where the action happens, more interest is put on the news story and less on her life story. If the main protagonist appears to treat her own life as an afterthought, audiences will also disregard the primary character development to follow the headline. Martin’s picture is a compelling endeavor detailing both the tensions of the newsroom and the palace in 2019, and the characters feel true to their real life counterparts, which leads to a compelling and horrifying depiction of the former Duke of York. Portrayed by Rufus Sewell (Judy), Prince Andrew presents as an overgrown man-child with no concept of reality, and no knowledge of consequences. His lack of awareness appears pathetic at times, the unchecked ambitions of his life leaves the middle aged Prince destined for disastrous consequences. The film's most sympathetic character is the prince’s secretary Amanda, who seems to be at odds with the fact that her friend could be evil. She lives in a state of denial regarding Andrew’s actions and she wants to see the good in people, and the tragedy is that there are truly evil people in the world. 

The film's greatest downfall is the premature nature in which the film was made. Epstein and his social circle remains one of today’s greatest mysteries. The public desperately wants names and answers as to who and what exactly occurred at Epstein’s parties, and there is a constant call for accountability placed on the criminal attendees. This retelling cannot be sufficiently told until the public has a semblance of closure regarding what happened with Jeffery Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell. To date the answers given to the public regarding Epstein, his death, his island, and his guests has only created more unease and unrest. Until those are held accountable for the heinous acts of sex traffiking and pedophilia, films like Scoop will fall short of complete audience investment. For justice must be served in a courtroom before people properly care about the story being told about the newsroom. 

Target Score 5/10 - Scoop is definitely watchable and even enjoyable at moments. However, the story of Prince Andrew and Jeffery Epstein has too many unanswered questions, and the film cannot grant audiences the necessary closure they deserve. Fans of newsroom dramas will enjoy the Netflix streamer, but stronger iterations of this type of film already exist.