Mosaic

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Mosaic TV Poster Image
Innovative but muddled "choose your own adventure" whodunit.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There are complicated motives at play in this series, no matter what path you choose through the story. It's got a murder, and then a bunch of people who were all motivated to do it by their desires for money, power, real estate. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters have hidden pasts, motivations, desires, backgrounds -- no one comes off clean, including main character (and murder victim) Olivia Lake, who we sympathize with but come to understand as a cog in a machine helping the rich get and stay wealthy. 

Violence

Violence is sporadic, but may be upsetting to younger viewers: A family in a swamp boat in Louisiana shoots an alligator, repeatedly referring to it as a "trophy," we see a (fake) gator get shot, without blood; a moment later, we see meat being tucked into a cooler. During an argument a man punches a wall repeatedly, yelling "f--k!" A woman is murdered, but what we see is her studio with a small puddle of blood and a body with a close-up on a decomposed hand with rings in a creek. 

Sex

Expect flirting, dating; a woman refers to asking a man to come in (presumably for sex) and says if she doesn't the "night will last longer." A woman flirting with a bartender says she wants a drink that's "tall and muscular," and then whispers that she didn't mention "stiff." 

Language

Cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "hell," "goddammit," "damn," "Jesus Christ." A woman shoots a man the bird in jest. One man calls another "moron." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

We see the end of a joint next to a lighter in an ashtray; adults drink wine at dinner; one refers to having had a glass or two too many, and acts a little sloppy. When he's upset, a man says "I need a drink." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mosaic is a series about a wealthy woman who goes missing that can be watched on TV or through an app that allows viewers to watch the story in a different order. The story is about a murder and who did it, but violence is sporadic and on the mild side: an art studio splashed with blood, a man and woman arguing before he hits a door and bloodies his knuckles, a shot of a decomposed hand. An alligator is shot realistically but bloodlessly by a young boy with a shotgun in a Louisiana swamp boat; the gator is repeatedly referred to as a "trophy." There are mild sexual innuendos, such as a woman ordering a drink flirtatiously from a bartender and telling a friend she refrained from asking for the drink to be "stiff." Cursing and language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "hell," "goddammit," and "damn." Adults drink at dinners, parties, and get-togethers, and act sloppy, sentimental, or silly. We see the end of a joint in an ashtray.

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What's the story?

MOSAIC's prime distinction is the method in which its story is told. Director Steven Soderbergh's whodunit can be watched as a six-part series on cable/online, or through a free app of the same name, which allows viewers to choose their own path through the mystery. Speaking of which: Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone) is the author of a classic children's book and a celebrity in her small, snowy town of Summit, Utah, but she's lonely and looking for love. She thinks she's found it when she meets handsome newcomer and aspiring artist Joel (Garrett Hedlund), but just as their relationship sours, she meets another handsome newcomer: Eric (Frederick Weller), who has hidden financial motivations behind his charm offensive. When Olivia turns up dead, it's up to detective Nate Henry (Devin Ratray) and Eric's sister, Petra (Jennifer Ferrin), to unravel the mystery that's tearing Summit apart. 

Is it any good?

Flat characters and blah visuals make this innovative filmmaking experiment less grabby than it should be, but it's definitely interesting enough for a look. Fans of "choose your own adventure" books will be especially intrigued by the idea of a narrative that gives viewers some choice in how a story is told to them, but this tale is less of a "choose your own adventure" and more of a "choose your own path," because you see the same content, just mixed up in different ways. If you watch Mosaic via the app, when you come to the end of one chunk, you are presented with the choice of two paths -- which both ultimately lead to the same place. 

Narrative experiments aside, the central mystery could be juicier. Sharon Stone is still a star and effortlessly holds focus, Paul Reubens, who plays Stone's puckish best friend, is a delight. But the male foils set up to make us wonder which of the two bumped Olivia off are pretty colorless and underwritten -- a pity once she disappears from the scene and leaves behind only complications and a blood-splashed studio. Summit -- played by Park City, Utah, and filmed over two consecutive winters -- emerges as an interesting character of its own later on, but until it does -- and until Nate and Petra perk up the proceedings with their sleuthing -- there are a lot of scenes of people talking (and talking) in dark wood-paneled rooms with snowy vistas in the background that might leave watchers a little (sorry) cold. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the town of Summit, Utah, as it's presented in Mosaic and how closely it resembles the places they live. How would the people of your community react if a similar crime took place where you live?

  • How does Mosaic's violence compare to that of other crime series you've seen? Does a series have to be bloody and graphic to be gripping?

  • Did you watch Mosaic as an edited series online or on cable, or as a choose-your-path presentation on the app? What do you think about the storytelling possibilities of having an app? Do you think it was difficult to write and plan? What types of movies or TV shows would adapt well to this type of storytelling? 

TV details

For kids who love drama TV

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