The Review

By The Atlantic

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Don’t just watch a movie; understand it. Don’t just hear a song; consider what it has to say. On The Review, writers and guests discuss how we entertain ourselves, and how that defines the way we see the world. Join The Atlantic’s writers as they break down a work of pop culture each week, exploring the big questions that great art can provoke, making some recommendations for you, and having a little fun along the way.

Episode Date
Adele’s '30' and The Year of the Breakup Album
Adele’s new album 30 is a cinematic exploration of “divorce, babe, divorce,” but it caps a year rich with breakup anthems. From Kacey Musgraves Star-Crossed to Taylor Swift’s reissued Red (Taylor’s Version), pop music has seemed like a months-long opera of celebrity splits, all beginning of course with Olivia Rodrigo’s world-conquering “Driver’s License” in January.  Why was 2021 the year of the breakup album? Shirley Li, Spencer Kornhaber, and Sophie Gilbert discuss Adele, Taylor, and more—plus they share what makes a good heartbreak record (and what their own all-time favorite breakup music is). Further reading:  The Dazzling Ambition of Adele's '30' Olivia Rodrigo's 'Sour' Demystifies the Breakup Album Why Taylor Swift's Nostalgia Play Works Billie Eilish and Pop's Sad Girls Are Making Happy M Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dec 01, 2021
Passing (Bonus from The Experiment)
We’re off this week for the holiday, so here’s a special bonus from The Experiment, a podcast from The Atlantic and WNYC about the conflicts and contradictions that make America. Hollywood has a long history of “passing movies”—films in which Black characters pass for white—usually starring white actors. Even as these films have attempted to depict the devastating effect of racism in America, they have trafficked in tired tropes about Blackness. But a new movie from actor-writer-director Rebecca Hall takes the problematic conventions of this uniquely American genre and turns them on their head. Hall tells the story of how her movie came to life, and how making the film helped her grapple with her own family’s secrets around race and identity. A transcript of this episode is available.  For further reading, Shirley Li’: “Netflix’s ‘Passing’ Is an Unusually Gentle Movie About a Brutal Subject” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 24, 2021
Emily Dickinson’s life, according to the show Dickinson, had a lot more gay sex and twerking than middle school English class would have had you believe. And, from what we now know of the reclusive poet’s life, at least half of that is true.  The cult hit Apple TV+ show—now in its third and final season—retells Dickinson’s life by pairing a modern knowledge of her lifelong relationships with a modern set of anachronisms: The 19th-century residents of Amherst, Massachusetts, twerk to hip-hop. They stay in for “novels and chill.” They hook up, curse, and use slang as if they were alive today. But Dickinson’s not alone in its approach. With shows like Bridgerton and The Great also blending the last few centuries, why is television using period settings to tell contemporary stories lately? Does the slant of that approach bring something direct storytelling can’t? The Atlantic staff writers Sophie Gilbert, Shirley Li, and Spencer Kornhaber discuss. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 18, 2021
Sophie Gilbert, David Sims, and Shirley Li discuss Spencer, the new “fable from a true tragedy” about Princess Diana. After Jackie, director Pablo Larraín turned his attention to another high-profile woman captive to family and publicity.  Does the movie’s surrealist approach complicate the Diana mythmaking, or act like the very paparazzi it criticizes? How does the always great Kristen Stewart do with the meta-casting that’s sure to draw award buzz? And if Larraín were to make a trilogy, which woman of history should be his third? Come for the Kristen Stewart raves, stay for the Anne of Cleves stanning. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 10, 2021
The Ring
Who says Halloween’s over? This week, we’re revisiting a modern horror classic. Sophie Gilbert, David Sims, and Lenika Cruz discuss The Ring, Gore Verbinski’s 2002 adaptation of the Japanese film Ringu.  The Ring brought J-horror to North America, rekindled the supernatural monster movie after a decade of slashers like Scream, and gave audiences one of the best horror-movie endings of all time. But in the post-VHS and “prestige horror” era, how does The Ring hold up after two decades? Have any films since struck that perfect balance of techno-horror and ghost story? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 03, 2021
David Sims, Shirley Li, and Spencer Kornhaber discuss the new big-budget adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic Dune. The ur-text of modern sci-fi, Dune has a legacy that echoes through Star Wars, Alien, and countless Hero’s Journey epics. Does Denis Villeneuve succeed where David Lynch failed? Does its Chosen One narrative feel stale after so many imitations, or does the novel’s own skepticism of messianic belief shine through?” Also: Worms! They're big. But what kitchen implement do they resemble most? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Oct 27, 2021
Succession (Season 3 Premiere)
The boar is on the floor. The Greggs are in the Tomelettes. And season 3 of HBO’s Succession is finally here. Spencer Kornhaber, Shirley Li, and Hannah Giorgis break down the season premiere and unpack the appeal of Succession. What explains the unique obsession for a show about feuding media heirs? We break down favorite characters, favorite insults, and where we hope the season goes from here, and our critics pick a tiny argument with their colleague. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Oct 20, 2021
No Time to Die
James Bond now spans 25 movies, six actors, and six decades—not to mention the books, video games, and imitations. Over the years, the character has evolved from the stoic, womanizing emblem of British empire to Daniel Craig’s emotionally driven interpretation. But with the Craig era ending, where does Bond go from here? Atlantic staff writers Sophie Gilbert, David Sims, and Shirley Li discuss No Time to Die, as well as Bond’s future and past. The trio also shares their favorite Bond theme songs, why Q is Shirley’s underrated Bond king, and why David considers Bond films “the most influential action movies ever made.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Oct 13, 2021
Ted Lasso
David Sims, Megan Garber, and Sophie Gilbert examine the unlikely success that is Ted Lasso, and ask what the show’s much-discussed second season has to say about the merits (and the limits) of American optimism. Visit for more about the show. And check out Megan’s pieces on Ted Lasso and on how comedy is reckoning with American decline. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Oct 06, 2021
Introducing: The Review
On The Review, The Atlantic's writers and guests discuss how we entertain ourselves and how that shapes the way we understand the world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Sep 29, 2021