‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ traces Russian history from the prison of a posh hotel

Spanning decades of Russian history from the confines of a luxury hotel, “A Gentleman in Moscow” provides another strong TV showcase for Ewan McGregor, this time playing opposite his wife, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The result is a sweetly touching adaptation of the bestselling book that explores the quest for humanity and connection even under the strangest of circumstances within an authoritarian regime.

After “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “Halston,” McGregor finds another very different kind of hero in Count Alexander Rostov, who, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, is sentenced to remain forever in the Hotel Metropol, facing death if he dares venture outside, the proverbial prisoner in a gilded cage.

Yet Alexander finds a warm support system within the hotel, not just among the staff – who treat him like a celebrity – but guests like the young girl he befriends, as well as a glamorous actress (Winstead) who immediately catches his eye.

Alexander also becomes an unlikely resource to an officer of the secret police (Johnny Harris) who wants to better understand the bourgeoisie class that he represents, a relationship that evolves over the ensuing decades, carrying through World War II – often jumping years in the process – and through the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the 1950s.

Even with the considerable passage of time (something that the makeup scarcely reflects, but never mind), parts of the eight-episode run feel a bit too leisurely in their character-driven indulgences. The overall effect of this fictional tale set against the backdrop of history, however, is quite effective, as the decadent nobleman learns to care deeply about people other than himself, illustrating that families can be created and not just inherited.

Despite Alexander’s limited world, “A Gentleman in Moscow” avoids any sense of claustrophobia while painting a sobering portrait of Russia during the 20th century that, given recent events, feels relevant to understanding the country’s collective psyche. At the same time, the show manages to be quite funny and even romantic, nicely developing the other lives that Alexander touches. Plus, there’s the added kick of seeing McGregor and Winstead (who met shooting the third season of FX’s “Fargo”) sink their teeth into such juicy, flamboyant roles.

Although this is another one of those limited series that might have been stronger condensed to six episodes instead of eight (hardly a first), the rewards of “A Gentleman in Moscow” more than justify the commitment. And while Alexander might not be able to leave, viewers who voluntarily check into the Hotel Metropol will have plenty of reasons to enjoy their stay.

“A Gentleman in Moscow” premieres March 29 on Paramount+ with Showtime and March 31 at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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