‘Genius: Picasso’ Review: Antonio Banderas Spices Up a Painfully Banal Portrait of the Great Abstract Artist

Too many women reduced to muses and a routine rags-to-riches backstory make “Genius: Picasso” feel antithetical to both words in its title.

Genius: Picasso” is a telling title in how it orders those two words. Though last year’s debut season of the National Geographic anthology series didn’t feel the need to incorporate “Einstein” into its name, the second season makes sure the brand takes priority over the subject — and the creative elements follow suit.

Season 2 is a painful bore. Using the same formula devised for an entirely different character, “Genius: Picasso” short-shrifts the few compelling angles it touches upon in favor of covering a wide swath of the painter’s life. Again, there are two stories running in parallel to each other: One is of Picasso in his early twenties, with Alex Ross depicting a passionate artist finding his vision. The other, largely framed around the Nazi occupation of Paris, follows an older Picasso played by Antonio Banderas.

Each timeline has its strong points (Ross and Banderas both among them), but there’s not enough to save “Picasso” from suffering a fate the real man would hate most of all: It’s conventional, and borderline-ugly.

Given the chosen subject, the choice to fit in is doubly misguided. During the first four episodes, Picasso goes on and on about making his own art instead of copying others. When he’s starting out, the young artist makes a decent living replicating the styles of his famous would-be peers. He’s naturalistic, painting portraits and landscapes so paying customers have something simple and nice to hang above their dinner tables.

Barcelona, Spain - Alex Rich plays Pablo Picasso in Season 2 of National Geographic’s Genius (National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)

But he begs to be cut free. He wants people to respect his unique styles and passions, not the ones he cribbed from other people. And yet as he rails against convention and playing it safe, the series exists in exactly those spaces. Aside from its time-jumping story structure between younger and older Picassos — which the brand is based on — there’s nothing particularly striking about it. Even that feels like a convenient recycling of last season’s Einstein structure (as well as plenty of other biopics) more than a necessary means to capture this man’s essence, complexity, and life’s work.

“Genius: Picasso” tries to include too much of the artist’s story and pays the price for it. Early scenes move at a preposterously rapid pace, shooting through adolescent building blocks like his father teaching him to paint, the death of his younger sister, the loss of his virginity, and up to his schooling in less than 20 minutes. They’re only included so Picasso can reference them when he’s older, but they’re only rushed past so the audience doesn’t have to juggle more than two men playing Pablo. And the women in Picasso’s life are only there to help define him; none of his muses are given much backstory outside of their obsession with him or rejection by him. (This could be a way to avoid the more problematic aspects of the artist’s past, though they technically still could come up later in the season.)

Including so much in such a short amount of time is a way of catering to a wide audience — if you don’t like this story, don’t worry, there’s another right around the corner. That’s fine in theory, but it’s something Picasso himself didn’t want to do. Yes, he desired to be seen, but his choices purposefully bucked the status quo. “Genius: Picasso” seems to favor the former, and it will snag viewers for National Geographic. Many will come simply for Banderas, and they won’t be disappointed. Though not as transformative as Geoffrey Rush’s Einstein, the Spanish actor brings his trademark conviction and charm to the older Picasso, but he’s also contemplative. (Picasso is undoubtedly pretentious, but Banderas’ portrayal is anything but.)

Budapest, Hungary - Antonio Banderas (Pablo Picasso) with Samantha Colley (Dora Maar) in Season 2 of National Geographic’s Genius (National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)

There’s a pair of scenes in the premiere about Picasso’s art being taken from him: once by accident when he’d made nothing of value and then again when he’s an established icon and the Nazis threaten to destroy his art. In younger Picasso’s timeline, the scene falls apart. As rain starts to pour, Picasso and his friend scramble to protect his paintings that were left outside to dry, but the show underlines their panic with a ludicrous grandiosity for how silly it seems at the time. Even a brief cut to that footage in the present, while older Picasso recalls his past, risks ruining Banderas’ moment.

He doesn’t let it. “I’ve had my work destroyed before,” he says. “I won’t let it happen again.” The fact that he’s talking about Nazis burning down decades of important pieces should work against Banderas’ sincerity, since the comparison between an accidental loss due to weather and the deliberate destruction by fascists should never be made. But it’s his simple belief in his own art, sold by Banderas’ relaxed yet earnest delivery, that keeps the later timeline from suffering the same fate as the earlier one.

Ross is not to blame for any faults either. If anything, he’s given more to handle as the emotional younger Picasso, and he does so with gusto that never feels falsely inflated. The words may not ring false, but the performance stays grounded. Still, in the end, “Genius: Picasso” remains a minor effort all around. It moves so quickly and summarizes so much, it’s hard to trust anything but the most basic aspects of the story. Even the art is relegated to the background, as the series highlights only one painting in the first four hours. What is on display feels far removed from Picasso’s genius, even if it’s right in line with the “Genius” brand.

Grade: C-

“Genius: Picasso” premiered Friday, April 20 at the Tribeca Film Festival. Its National Geographic debut is set for Tuesday, April 24 at 9 p.m. ET.

‘Genius 3’ Renewed By Nat Geo, Season 3 Subject Revealed – Upfront

National Geographic has renewed scripted anthology series Genius for a third season and has revealed that iconic literary figure Mary Shelley, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, will be its subject. The network made the announcement at the conclusion of its upfront Wednesday in New York City.
Mary Shelley will follow brilliant physicist Albert Einstein, who was at the center of Season 1, and famous artist Pablo Picasso, who was the…

National Geographic has renewed scripted anthology series Genius for a third season and has revealed that iconic literary figure Mary Shelley, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, will be its subject. The network made the announcement at the conclusion of its upfront Wednesday in New York City. Mary Shelley will follow brilliant physicist Albert Einstein, who was at the center of Season 1, and famous artist Pablo Picasso, who was the…

‘Frankenstein’ Author Mary Shelley Set as ‘Genius’ Season 3 Subject

National Geographic has named its newest genius. The cable channel announced at its upfront presentation Wednesday night that Mary Shelley, author of “Frankenstein,” will be the subject of the third installment of anthology series “Genius,” whose renewal was confirmed. “Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ left an indelible mark on generations of imaginations,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice […]

National Geographic has named its newest genius. The cable channel announced at its upfront presentation Wednesday night that Mary Shelley, author of “Frankenstein,” will be the subject of the third installment of anthology series “Genius,” whose renewal was confirmed. “Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ left an indelible mark on generations of imaginations,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice […]

ATX Television Festival Adds ‘Younger’, ‘Station 19’ & ‘Genius’ Panels

The seventh annual ATX Television Festival has added three series to its lineup and expanded the panels for two others.
TV Land’s Younger is returning to the fest — set for June 17-20 in Austin — for a fourth time with a panel and sneak peek at Season 5. The Q&A will feature creator/EP Darren Star, series lead Sutton Foster and fellow castmembers Debi Mazar, Miriam Shor, Nico Tortorella, Peter Hermann, Molly Bernard, and Charles Michael Davis.

ABC’s freshman Grey’s Anatom…

The seventh annual ATX Television Festival has added three series to its lineup and expanded the panels for two others. TV Land’s Younger is returning to the fest — set for June 17-20 in Austin — for a fourth time with a panel and sneak peek at Season 5. The Q&A will feature creator/EP Darren Star, series lead Sutton Foster and fellow castmembers Debi Mazar, Miriam Shor, Nico Tortorella, Peter Hermann, Molly Bernard, and Charles Michael Davis. ABC’s freshman Grey's Anatom…

‘Genius’: Antonio Banderas Finally Plays His Idol, Pablo Picasso

“They offered me this character in my 20s and in my 30s but I always said, ‘No, I don’t want to play him yet,'” says the actor of taking on the role of the painter in the Nat Geo anthology series.read more


"They offered me this character in my 20s and in my 30s but I always said, 'No, I don't want to play him yet,'" says the actor of taking on the role of the painter in the Nat Geo anthology series.

read more

Antonio Banderas Says He Had To “Metaphorically” Kill Himself To Play Pablo Picasso In ‘Genius’ – The Contenders Emmys

Antonio Banderas has played Zorro, a trapped Chilean coal miner and other iconic characters. But the actor says his latest role as iconic Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in National Geographic’s Genius forced him to go to lengths he’d never gone to before.
“What I knew I had to do from the beginning is just to metaphorically kill myself,” he told the packed house at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event. “I had to kill Antonio Banderas in order to start constructing…

Antonio Banderas has played Zorro, a trapped Chilean coal miner and other iconic characters. But the actor says his latest role as iconic Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in National Geographic's Genius forced him to go to lengths he’d never gone to before. "What I knew I had to do from the beginning is just to metaphorically kill myself,” he told the packed house at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event. “I had to kill Antonio Banderas in order to start constructing…

Tribeca Unveils 2018 TV Lineup With ‘Westworld,’ ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock,’ and New ‘Freaks and Geeks’ Doc — Watch

Other notable offerings from this year’s slate include new episodes of the classic true crime series “The Staircase” and a docuseries on the life and death of Trayvon Martin.

Last year, Tribeca was one of the first places to bring “The Handmaid’s Tale” to the TV world. Time will tell what the biggest story out of the 2018 festival will be, but there’s plenty to look forward to.

Tribeca unveiled a mammoth 2018 TV program, covering established series with network homes, all the way to pilots that have yet to be distributed. Some of the for-sure big stops in this year’s Tribeca guide: a screening of the “Westworld” Season 2 premiere, the first look at the upcoming Pablo Picasso season of “Genius,” and the debut North American look at Amazon’s TV adaptation of “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” starring Natalie Dormer.

Also in the mix out in New York next month? Surprise new episodes of “The Staircase,” the legendary French godfather of true crime TV. Netflix will also make their presence felt with a preview of their new Bobby Kennedy docuseries from “Trapped” director Dawn Porter. The Paramount Network will also unveil the Jay-Z-produced “Rest in Power,” highlighting the life and death of Trayvon Martin.

The festival’s TV related offerings will also include a new documentary looking behind the scenes of the iconic “Freaks and Geeks,” complete with a post-screening panel featuring creator Paul Feig.

Below is just a portion of the notable selections from this year’s festival. In addition to the main TV lineup, Tribeca is also highlighting fresh digital content with Tribeca N.O.W. (New Online Work). There’s also a quintet of episodic pilots, featuring performances from Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Zosia Mamet.

(For the full Tribeca 2018 lineup, see the full TV schedule here.)

Tribeca 2018 TV Lineup

Bobby Kennedy for President (Netflix) – World Premiere

Acclaimed director Dawn Porter reveals anew what America gained and what it lost in the life, vision, politics, and hope of Bobby Kennedy.

After the screening: A conversation with director Dawn Porter and Ambassador William vanden Heuvel.

Screening: Wednesday, April 25, 5:00 PM, SVA Theatre

Cobra Kai (YouTube Red) – World Premiere

Epic adversaries return to the dojo in Cobra Kai, an all-new series in which Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprise their star-making roles (and rivalry) from the iconic film franchise, The Karate Kid. With Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Mary Mouser, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Courtney Henggeler.

After the screening: A conversation with writers, directors, and executive producers Hayden Schlossberg, John Hurwitz, and Josh Heald and series stars and executive producers Ralph Macchio and William Zabka.

Screening: Tuesday, April 24, 7:45 PM, SVA Theatre

Drunk History (Comedy Central) – Season 5, Midseason Premiere

Derek Waters, along with an ever-changing cast of actors and comedians, travels across the country to present the liquored-up narrative of our nation’s rich history. With Derek Waters, Jeremy Konner.

After the screening: A conversation with co-creator, director, and host Derek Waters, co-creator and director Jeremy Konner, and other special guests.

Screening: Thursday, April 26, 8:30 PM, Tribeca Festival Hub

Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary, directed by Brent Hodge, produced by Aly Kelly, Matthew Galkin – World Premiere

Tribeca alum Brent Hodge examines the untold stories and pivotal moments from the making of one of the greatest “one-season wonders” ever produced—one that influenced pop culture far beyond the series’ short TV life.  ​With Paul Feig, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Busy Philipps, James Franco.

After the movie: A conversation with director Brent Hodge and Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig.

First Screening: Saturday, April 21, 8:00 PM, Tribeca Festival Hub

Genius: Picasso (National Geographic) – World Premiere

In its second season, Genius explores the Spanish expatriate Pablo Picasso’s devotion to his craft, his contribution to modern art, and his turbulent personal life. With Antonio Banderas, Alex Rich, Clémence Poésy, Samantha Colley, Poppy Delevingne, T.R. Knight, Seth Gabel.

After the screening: A conversation with showrunner Ken Biller, executive producers Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo, and cast-members Antonio Banderas, Alex Rich, Clémence Poésy, Poppy Delevingne, and Samantha Colley.

Screening: Friday, April 20, 8:30 PM, BMCC Tribeca PAC

PBS Little Women

“Little Women”

PBS

Little Women (PBS) – North American Premiere

Set against the backdrop of a country divided, the story follows the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy on their journey from childhood to adulthood under the guidance of their mother Marmee. Little Women is a coming-of-age story that is as relevant and engaging today as it was on its original publication in 1868. With Emily Watson, Michael Gambon, Angela Lansbury, Maya Hawke, Annes Elwy, Kathryn Newton, Dylan Baker and Jona Hauer-King.

After the screening: A conversation with Executive Producers Colin Callender and Rebecca Eaton along with cast-member Maya Hawke.

Screening: Friday, April 27, 5:00 PM, SVA Theatre

Mr. SOUL!, directed by Melissa Haizlip, Samuel Pollard – World Premiere

Mr. SOUL! offers an entertaining, essential look at the groundbreaking television show SOUL!, which, under producer-host Ellis Haizlip’s passionate guidance, showcased the breadth of black artistry from 1968 to 1973.

After the movie: A tribute to SOUL! hosted by Blair Underwood and featuring performances from Robert Glasper and more.

First Screening: Sunday, April 22, 8:00 PM, Tribeca Festival Hub

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Amazon Prime Video) – North American Premiere

A penetrating reimagining of the iconic, timeless Australian classic, Picnic at Hanging Rock plunges audiences into the mysterious disappearances of three schoolgirls and their governess on Valentine’s Day, 1900. With Natalie Dormer, Lily Sullivan, Madeleine Madden, Samara Weaving, Lola Bessis, Yael Stone, Inez Curro, Harrison Gilbertson, Ruby Rees.

After the screening: A conversation with director Larysa Kondracki, executive producer Jo Porter and cast member Natalie Dormer.

Screening: Saturday, April 28, 8:00 PM, SVA Theatre

Phenoms (Fox, Fox Sports) – World Premiere

Chronicling the journey of the next great soccer players on their quests to represent their respective countries in the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, Phenoms allows fans and viewers to experience the personal lives of players through unprecedented behind-the-scenes access.

After the screening: A conversation with Executive Producer David Brooks, Producer Arbi Pedrossian, Director Chris Perkel, and Editor Thomas Verette.

Screening: Wednesday, April 25, 8:30 PM, SVA Theatre

Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story (Paramount Network) – World Premiere

Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story depicts the life and legacy of Trayvon Martin, presenting the definitive look at one of the most talked-about, controversial events of the last decade.

After the screening: A conversation with co-directors Julia Willoughby Nason and Jenner Furst, the parents of Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, executive producers Mike Gasparro and Chachi Senior, and special guest.

Screening: Friday, April 20, 5:45 PM, BMCC Tribeca PAC

The Staircase – International Premiere

The true-crime phenomenon The Staircase returns with all-new chapters, as convicted murderer Michael Peterson faces his final trial.

After the screening: A conversation with creator and director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and producers Matthieu Belghiti and Allyson Luchak

Screening: Saturday, April 28, 6:00 PM, SVA Theatre

Sweetbitter Trailer Starz

“Sweetbitter”

Sweetbitter (Starz) – World Premiere

New to New York City, 22-year-old Tess is quickly intoxicated by the chaotic, adrenalized world of the upscale restaurant industry, where she tastes expensive wine, explores dive bars, and learns who she can trust. With Ella Purnell, Tom Sturridge, Caitlin FitzGerald, Paul Sparks, Evan Jonigkeit, Eden Epstein, Jasmine Matthews, Daniyar.

After the screening: A conversation with Sweetbitter creator, executive producer, and writer Stephanie Danler, showrunner Stuart Zicherman, and cast-members Ella Purnell, Caitlin FitzGerald, Tom Sturridge, and Paul Sparks.

Screening: Thursday, April 26, 5:00 PM, SVA Theatre

Westworld (HBO) – Season 2, New York Premiere

As a new chapter begins, Westworld continues on its dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin. With Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Tessa Thompson.

After the screening: a conversation with co-creators, showrunners, and directors Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and cast-members Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden.

Screening: Thursday, April 19, 8:30 PM, BMCC Tribeca PAC

Pilot Season

Screening Showcase:  Monday, April 23, 6:45 PM, Cinépolis Chelsea

Fabled (USA) – World Premiere

This anthology series reimagines classic fairy tales through the perspective of its female characters, whose overlapping stories take place in the same small town. With Zosia Mamet, Trace Lysette, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Wesley, Norbert Butz.

Nice (USA) – World Premiere

Teddy, a sarcastic-but-loveable 23-year-old, prides herself on being the black sheep of her conservative Korean-American family. But when her cancer returns—and she keeps it a secret—everything in her life takes on new meaning. With Naomi Ko, Sun Park, Kim Cooper, Parvesh Cheena, Nathan Yueh, Connor Gould.

Tantalum (USA) – World Premiere

Detroit-based tech mogul Colton stands on the edge of a bridge in the middle of the night, ready to jump to his death. But when a strange woman perched above him derails his plan, he finds he’s in for a bizarre, and increasingly violent, night. With Marcus Henderson, Susan Deming, Jeffery Waddell, Langston Fishburne.

Oversharing (USA) – World Premiere

When a new business venture fails, uptight Jenny is forced to start renting out her apartment online. But diving into the sharing economy proves not to be so easy for someone who never actually learned to “share.” With Beth Dover, Sarah Burns, David Danipour, Thomas Fowler.

On the Spectrum (Israel) – World Premiere

On the Spectrum follows three 20-something roommates, all on the autism spectrum, as they navigate the day-to-day concerns of work, friendship, and romance. With Neomi Levov, Niv Majar, Ben Yosipovich, Uri Gat, Avi Dangur, Tal Yakimov.

N.O.W. Showcase – Episodic

Premiere Screening: Thursday, April 19, 8:30 PM, Regal Battery Park Theater

Cleaner Daze, created by Tess Sweet (USA) – Episodes 1-2 (World Premiere)

Cleaner Daze, a dark comedy series about addiction, follows Jasmine, a newbie drug counselor, and her eccentric co-workers as they struggle to wrangle a misfit crew of teenage drug addicts. With Abigail Reno, Karin Babbitt, Tess Sweet, Kemi O’Connor.

Dinette, created by Shaina Feinberg (USA) – World Premiere

The original series Dinette focuses on a group of female and gender non-conforming friends who come together for a commitment ceremony in the waning days of 2017. Shaina Feinberg leads the ensemble cast through a series of inter-connected vignettes riffing on wounded machismo and the patriarchy.

Driver Ed, created by Jacob A. Ware, Amanda Cowper (USA) – World Premiere

A guy decides to get his driver’s license to impress his NASCAR-loving girlfriend, but unexpected things happen on the open road. With Jacob A. Ware, Layla Khosh, Eddie Diaz, Becca Blackwell.

Home, created by Micah Sudduth, Keylee Sudduth (USA) – World Premiere

Pulling from the true life experiences of the filmmakers, Home mines the humor and heartbreak of growing into adulthood, leaving home, and balancing individual creative careers as a married couple in the millennial age.

Pig: The Dam Keeper Poems, created by Erick Oh (USA, Japan) – New York Premiere

Pig: The Dam Keeper Poems is a 2D animated series based on the world of The Dam Keeper, the beloved Oscar-nominated short film by Tonko House. The series shows how Pig remembers his father’s departure and having to step into the role of the dam keeper.

Snugglr, created by Georgia Bernstein, Cemre Paksoy (USA) – World Premiere

Snugglr is an improvised comedy that follows a young Turkish girl, Cemre, who cuddles strangers, professionally as a last resort to make rent. She winds up fully dressed and in bed with all kinds of characters – including a high school student discovering her sexuality, a piano playing dad, and a twelve-year-old with lice, all of whom are looking for more than just a snuggle, in one weird way or another. In English, Turkish with English subtitles.

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