Feb 212019

My favorite scene in this adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel is basically every scene where Glenn Close is speaking quietly and sparsely to a man who doesn’t realize he’s not the smartest person in the room and who is not catching on to what Joan Castleman is carefully not saying.

The choice to rely on a journalist to carry the historical content of Joan’s narration in the novel is clever and well done. It leaves Close the freedom to expose the difference between being unseen and being effaced, between standing off to the side and being pushed there. The film zeros on that subtle emotional distinction and in a brisk, focused hour-and-a-half shows a fiercely intelligent and grounded woman refusing to become a thing defined and moved about by others. She refuses too to love one bit less than she feels. It’s a beautiful performance of a beautiful character.

Aug 092015

I love Glenn Close too much not to have finished this series, but I hated it more and more each season.

To survive, I watched for “the moments.” Say, Patty drinking red wine out of an enormous glass at her beautiful dinner table or maybe on her white couch. Or Patty sitting with reading glasses in hand, as someone leaves her office, silent, still, but watching closely and thinking hard.

Despite the time I put into watching the show, I’m left with nothing substantial except the two final images: Patty, alone in her limo, riding through the city streets like the Olympian she is, and Ellen, with her child, buying a cupcake or something.

What gets me is that the series clearly thinks that Ellen is the hero.

And that was the problem with it.

Nov 012013

I watched the season in a rush, disappointed but not hating it either. I typed up my thoughts on what followed the first episode as I watched. Everything’s included below.

  • The gay killer with chapstick sucks. Because. But also because it’s such a lame No Country for Old Men rip off.
  • Timothy Olyphant is dreamy. And yet, there’s a problem: his character is vague. He’s supposed to be ambiguous and we’re supposed to be wondering “is he a good guy or a bad guy?” But I’m just asking “Who is this guy?” This is a writing problem.
  • Episode after episode feels like the writers are figuring things out as they go. And the results feel improvised and short-sided rather than spontaneous or unexpected. The constantly returning characters are not a positive solution to dramatic problems.
  • Ellen (the actress and the character) is horrible and anorexic. She is pouty, often thick, and generally useless. If Patty were the character I am supposed to believe she is, she would be fired immediately.
  • Episode 7 seems to be the place where things are settling out and getting rolling. The pieces seem in place, Patty is back where she needs to be. Episode 7 out of 13. First episode of the second half, things begin…
  • Biggest, dumbest most annoying Ellen moment yet: the stupid, obviously not honest, FBI agents are revealed to being fakers; their investigation is a shame. Ellen’s response? “You guys better be real” and then she turns and stomps out of the room. She is an idiot.
  • I would LOVE for Patty to hire Marcia Gay Harden’s character for her firm. And to send Ellen to jail. MGH should be on this show forever. She’s that good. And a great counterpoint to Patty.
  • Patty’s outrage over her husband’s affair measures this difference between this show and House of Cards. In HOC, the marriage is about loyalty, trust, faithfulness, and shared dreams. The affairs—and both men and women have them–are not betrayals of marriage, they are something else, operating in a different arena, and subject to rational (rather than societal) judgment. Here though, the affairs are presented as obvious violations of marriage; any other possibility is taken off the table. So when Patty doesn’t care about the adultery, only her reputation, she’s manifesting as ruthless and amoral. This seems like a profoundly old-fashioned and patriarchal approach to promiscuity and was a disappointment. I felt like the writers couldn’t rise to Patty’s position (the position I imagine her character inhabiting) and so they lessened her by sketching out a miserly sexual politics for her.
  • Every single plot point involving Ellen is stupid.
  • Glenn Close’s boobies being perky and assertive in a tan turtleneck sweater are the sexiest things I’ve seen on TV in a long time. She too is dreamy.
  • I hate the final episode’s reconciliation between Ellen and Patty. Partly because I have been rooting against Ellen for the entire season, but also because the lead up to it makes no emotional sense.
  • Yet, that final scene also did what the season as a whole should have done. That last episode should have been unpacked and developed across the season. Grrrrr.

….so I’m disappointed, and yet, I have hope for this show still. If the writing can be sorted out and Patty’s character unleashed, this could be a good show.