TV review: 'Gentleman in Moscow' a captivating historical drama

Ewan McGregor is "A Gentleman in Moscow." Photo courtesy of Paramount+ With Showtime
1 of 5 | Ewan McGregor is "A Gentleman in Moscow." Photo courtesy of Paramount+ With Showtime

LOS ANGELES, March 25 (UPI) -- A Gentleman in Moscow, premiering Friday on Paramount+ with Showtime, turns Russian history into a juicy TV drama. The adaptation of Amor Towles' novel makes distant foreign history universal and relatable to modern viewers.

Four years after the 1917 Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Rostov (Ewan McGregor) is stripped of his status, as were all the royals. Spared the death sentence, Rostov was placed on house arrest by the Leninist Party in the Metropol hotel.


Rostov still makes a point to get dressed every morning in period-specific attire that is far less casual than the average modern tourist. He can leave his attic room to go to the dining room, the barber or the hotel's lounge.

Montages of Rostov's daily routine depict his modest, yet eventful, life. And there is still hostility in the hotel to create drama.


This can manifest as fellow patrons who attempt to forcibly remove Rostov from his seat, or more subtle microaggressions. Rostov meets people he knew on the outside, and the tables have turned now that he has nothing to offer and they no longer have to defer to his status.

Viewers need not know anything about Russian history to follow the drama. Characters talk about Lenin or Stalin's activities outside, but only in the way that most citizens wouldn't directly interact with historical figures on a daily basis.

Politically, the show seems sympathetic to Rostov. He was born into privilege, but didn't oppress anyone, so he doesn't deserve such a harsh, strict punishment. Given the evolution of the Russian government, Rostov may be on the right side of history.

Actress Anna Urbanova (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) comes to stay at the Metropol in Episode 2 and becomes a potential love interest for Rostov. The revolution also threatens her career.

A Gentleman in Moscow features snappy dialogue, whether characters are discussing politics, flirting with each other, or in some cases, when Rostov is dealing with a child, Nina (Alexa Goodall), who grows up in the hotel.

The characters speak in British accents, which is standard for period pieces in any foreign setting. If it were 100% accurate, they'd all be speaking Russian and Americans would be reading subtitles.


Rostov still has some fun, recommending a better wine to a dining couple than the waiter suggested. This becomes serious when the government orders all the wine labels removed to deny the privilege of nobility.

Rostov is aghast at the desecration of classic paintings for political reasons. Events like these effectively show the impact of a major political movement on individuals.

The show spans years in the hotel, illustrating just how much can happen in a confined setting. This ensures viewers will want to tune in every week, as they can be confident A Gentleman in Moscow won't run out of worthwhile stories.

The series also airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on Showtime.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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