Adult Material (2020) IMDB Description: “A woman’s life working in the adult film industry spans from its seedy beginnings to a highly successful enterprise.”
Why I took it off the list: After recently being impressed by her performance in In the Earth (2021), I decided to check out what else the versatile and appealing English actress Hayley Squires had done.
That led me to British miniseries Adult Material, which gives her a rare leading role. After reading the synopsis and becoming intrigued by the trailer, I decided to add it and then rapidly take it off my list. So, let’s dig in!
Review of Adult Material (2020)
Adult Material is similar to the excellent Pleasure (2021), in it that explores some darker aspects of the adult entertainment industry. But while that film followed a young Swedish beauty’s attempts to become a porn performer in sunny California, Adult Material centers around a British mother trying to cling to her fame and talents as she rapidly approaches middle age.
The early episodes focus on Squires’ confident, non-nonsense Hayley (AKA Jolene Dollar) as she attempts to navigate the industry and please her paymasters while trying to hold on to some sliver of her moral code.
At the same time, she takes a young, troubled protégé under her wing and tries (but mostly fails) to protect and be a good mother to her children and maintain a relationship with long-term partner Rich (Joe Dempsie).
The show starts as quick-paced and flashy, and, despite some harrowing drama, injects a lot of humor into proceedings. Mostly through Squires’s performance and the contrast between Hayley’s glamorous exterior and the mundane reality of her working-class surroundings.
The heightened vibe, and sense of trouble ahead, is added to by some sparing but effective nightmare scenes from Hayley’s perspective (although it could have used more of them to show more of her state of mind).
Like Michaela Coel’s fantastic I May Destroy You (2021), the series explores the murky waters around the issue of consent. Like that show’s protagonist, Hayley also faces a slow-burn reckoning with buried trauma. She has quite an arc and gradually comes to realize she can no longer turn a blind eye to the abuses she’s witnessed, not least those she’s inflicted on herself.
And as in Patrick Melrose (2018), the story inevitably gets less amusing as it goes on and the main character has to fully confront the effect that alcoholism and irresponsible decisions have had on her life.
Hayley Squires is Dynamite
Adult Material starts to lose focus a bit around the mid-way point and drifts into overwrought melodrama and then a standard-issue legal drama in its final episode. The series is also guilty of mostly wasting Rupert Everett in a great supporting role as a flamboyant, fading porn producer.
However, it’s still carried to a satisfying end by Squires’ brave, multi-faceted performance. Squires commands the screen in every scene she’s in, showing a great many sides of a tough and determined, but undeniably troubled woman.
On the surface, “Jolene” is closer to her role in In Fabric (2018) than In the Earth, but she gets a fantastically complicated character to work with and show her range. Sienna Kelly also gets some great material to work with and impresses as the unstable young star with whom Hayley develops a knotty relationship.
Final Score: 7/10
Adult Material (2020): Worth Watching?
Yes, for Hayley Squire’s excellent performance and its stylish execution, although it starts to lose some steam toward the end. Still, Adult Material is a thought-provoking drama about some complex issues and even manages to be pretty funny at times.
Adult Material (2020)
Directed by Dawn Shadforth
Written by Lucy Kirkwood