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Apple thriller ‘The Crowded Room’ shows Tom Holland shouldn’t quit his Spiderman day job: review

Tom Holland stars in and executive produces AppleTV+  thriller “The Crowded Room,” and the show is a great advertisement for how he shouldn’t quit his day job as Spiderman. 

Now streaming, “The Crowded Room” is a miniseries created by Akiva Goldsman, set in  the summer of 1979 in New York City.

The plot follows troubled young man Danny (Holland) after he’s arrested for open firing a gun near Rockefeller Center. At the time of the incident, he was with a friend, Ariana (Sasha Lane), but she vanished, and only Danny gets arrested. 

The cop in charge of his case (Thomas Sadoski) thinks Danny might be a serial killer, but, fellow cop Rya (Amanda Seyfried), has doubts. 

As she questions Danny, he begins trusting her and opening up to her. Flashbacks reveal his life leading up to this point. 

Tom Holland looking worried.
Apple TV+
Emmy Rossum smiling.
Apple TV+

He was unpopular in school, had a crush on a girl (Emma Laird), had an abusive stepfather (Will Chase), and a caring mother (Emmy Rossum – confusingly cast, as she’s 36, and her onscreen son Tom Holland is 27). 

It’s all rote stuff, like this show is checking the boxes for what the background of a “troubled young man” stock character should be. 

Several heavy-hitting actors appear in minor roles, such as Jason Isaacs, though they feel underused. 

Amanda Seyfried sitting across a table from Tom Holland.
Apple TV
Amanda Seyfried sitting looking serious.
Apple TV

The show is loosely based on the book “The Minds of Billy Milligan” (which gives away the gig if you Google it).

In fact, it’s quite easy to guess the big reveal just from seeing that title, or from having a passing familiarity with the psychological thriller genre. 

Holland has become best known as the latest Spiderman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and for dating Zendaya), a role which demands spry wit and comedic timing from him, far more than the intensity and moody gloom than his role in “The Crowded Room.” 

He’s held his own in some serious dramatic roles too (such as in the films “How I love Now” and “In the Heart of the Sea) but notably, he wasn’t at the center of those films. 

It’s understandable that he’d want to break away from Marvel and prove his “serious” chops, but “The Crowded Room” is a rather uninspired vehicle. 

The actors with the best luck of breaking away from popcorn fare include Robert Pattinson and Daniel Radcliffe, who both found success going for riskier and weirder roles after “Twilight” and “Harry Potter,” respectively. 

“The Crowded Room” is not risky or oddball. It has the potential to be both, but isn’t not interesting enough. 

Emmy Rossum looking worried in a garden.
Apple TV+
Tom Holland looking worried standing in the dark.
Apple TV

It’s not a dreadful show.

The performances are good, and the production value is high.

But, it’s a lot more boring than it should be, especially considering its subject matter. 

The pacing is plodding, the writing is uninspired, lacking a certain tight and clever quality that the genre needs.

And, the surprises are few and far between. 

Tom Holland and Sasha Lane sitting on a porch.
Apple TV
Amanda Seyfried looking thoughtful standing in front of a chalkboard.
Apple TV

Especially when “The Crowded Room” is held up alongside better crime thrillers that also explore the human psyche, this show pales in comparison to “Mindhunter” or “Sharp Objects.” 

Watching it, it’s hard not to think of all the other shows that have done similar concepts better. 

Holland isn’t without talent – and of course, Seyfried and Rossum are both established stars.

But none of them are enough to bolster this insipid show.