Review: Ewan McGregor is excellent in A Gentleman in Moscow - but his moustache steals the show

The real star is Ewan McGregor’s moustache
Ewan McGregor with his wife Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Alexa Goodall in A Gentleman in Moscow.Ewan McGregor with his wife Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Alexa Goodall in A Gentleman in Moscow.
Ewan McGregor with his wife Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Alexa Goodall in A Gentleman in Moscow.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. No, madam, I don’t mean the fact Ewan McGregor has love scenes with Mrs McG in his new TV drama, A Gentleman in Moscow. I’m talking about his moustache.

It’s magnificent. Magnificently comic at first glance … and presumably not real? But then you remember that while our Scottish superhunk has previously used prosthetics to enlarge his belly and nose, he didn’t need artificial endowment for all those movies - four at least - where he went full-frontal. So why couldn’t he have cultivated a brush this big, this virile?

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Then you soon realise that it suits him, though obviously he would never have been Renton in Trainspotting while this bewhiskered. More than that, in this Paramount+ eight-parter based on the bestselling novel by Amor Towles which airs from Friday, it suits the role of Count Alexander “Sasha” Rostov, who appears to be the last Russian aristocrat standing after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Holed up in his hotel, you almost expect to hear the cry: “They may take our finery, our precious things … but they’ll never take my moustache!”

Rostov is not in hiding in Moscow’s Metropol; rather he’s been held captive there. While other aristos are facing the firing squad, he’s being spared because of a poem attributed to him which chimes with the class struggle. In interrogations, his jailer attempts to elicit info which will help the cause. During room searches, he’ll ask the goons: “If you could give everything a dust while you’re at it I’d be most grateful.”

Rostov tries to maintain standards, to continue in the style to which he’s accustomed, and if the saltimbocca comes with Ukrainian ham rather than prosciutto, to keep smiling (though the mouser makes confirmation of this difficult). “What’s he doing?” wonders the head chef, to which the maitre d replies: “I believe he’s refusing to be beaten.”

He cannot leave the hotel so, a bit different from ours, this is his lockdown.

And, something else resonating with right now, this is his bloody Russian discord. Stalin himself is due to drop by but Rostov is more bothered that the very latest crackdown has left wine bottles without labels. Sometimes you think you might be watching a comedy and then a violinist - Motherland’s Paul Ready - will be dragged out into the snow and shot.

Throughout, McGregor is excellent, although no less so than Alexa Goodall as Nina, the young, smart and near-feral girl underneath a mass of curls who knows all the hotel’s secrets and befriends him.

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Then there’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Anna, the alluring actress who invites Rostov into her bed only to abruptly dispense with his services, rejecting his next 12 advances before feeling sorry for him. Despite being husband and wife in real life, the couple used an intimacy coach, with Winstead rating the experience of working with McGregor “amazing”.

So the big, if nosey, question: for a laugh at home does she get him to replicate the moustache with one from a joke shop? Does she play hard-to-get? And then does he toast their romantic evenings with Bollinger, 1917 vintage, label ripped off?



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