Sunday, January 10, 2016

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge; drama series, USA, 2014; D: Lisa Cholodenko, S: Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, John Gallagher, Jr., Zoe Kazan, Rosemarie DeWitt, Martha Wainwright, Bill Murray

Olive Kitteridge is an English teacher in her 40s, living in Maine. Even though her husband Henry is a nice man, she is not happy in marriage and only misses to have an affair with another man because the latter died in a car crash. Olive and Henry have a son, Christopher, who cannot understand his mother's cynicism and moves out to New York when he grows up. Upon retiring, Olive and Henry lead a monotone life at their home. Henry has a stroke and is thus sent to a nursing home. Olive visits Christopher whose new wife, Ann, already had two kids with two previous men, which leads to further conflict between them. In park, Olive meets a widowed man her age, Jack, and they go out on a dinner. Olive wants to commit suicide, but changes her mind and goes to Jack's home.

A critically acclaimed TV adaptation of Elizabeth Strout's eponymous novel, "Olive Kitteridge" is a bitter and brave take on the taboo topic of the lives of old people, as well as the notion that old age has no perspective. The level of the storyline is not always even - episode #2, for instance, is so overstretched that the only things that happen appear at the beginning and the ending (a spiteful Olive taking and hiding an earring of her son's future wife during wedding), leaving the whole middle as one empty walk, whereas the story is overall slightly too melodramatic and conventional at times. Still, there are some quality moments here - the robbery of a hospital in episode #3 suddenly changes its priority when the main event suddenly becomes the arguing of the hostages, in which Olive suddenly admits to her husband, Henry, that she would have left with another man a long time ago if the latter had not died, which gives it sharpness and power. It is also interesting by breaking some family cliches and ideals, especially in the subplot where Olive realizes that in Christopher she practically never even had a son. Frances McDormand delivers a fantastic, and complex, performance - her Olive is both fragile, sad, misunderstood and tragic as well as absurd, cynical and crazy - though a close second would be the amazing performance by excellent Bill Murray as Jack, a widowed man in the last and best episode, who at first seems to only have a sense of humor (when she meets him lying on the ground in the park, there is a great comic exchange: "Are you dead?" - "I don't know." - "Can you move?" - "I don't know, I haven't tried." - "You sure sound less and less dead to me"; which continues even later, when he calls her and she asks: "You're still alive?"), but later on symbolically turns into Olive's positive side which wants to continue living, and awakes her dormant life essence, even when all is lost, which gives her some comfort by showing some light at the end of her tragic tunnel.


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