HBO's Olive Kitteridge Part 1 and 2 already premiered on Sunday at 9pm.
It seems impossible that one could describe a four hour mini-series about emotionally bound small town Maine citizens as thrilling and exciting, but that what Oliver Kitteridge is. Its excitement is mainly due to the character of Oscar winning Frances McDormand’s and her performance as a woman sharp tongue stings everyone and who takes her kindhearted pharmacist husband, Henry, played by Richard Jenkins and their son Chris, played by John Gallagher, for granted.
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Once you see what Olive is capable of doing and that she says whatever she wants to and cannot stop herself from doing that, you look forward to see every scene with a mix of fear and delight. She is portrayed as a wife who throws her husband’s valentines card in the trash as soon as she reads it. People are enthralled by the thought that now who will Oliver cut next and for what reason and funny will it turn out to be.
The character of Oliver would be purely comical and maybe unbearable. Oliver Kitteridge will be aired on Sunday’s and Monday’s on HBO. The mini-series is directed by Lisa Cholodenko who has directed McDormand in Laurel Canyon and is adapted by Jane Anderson from Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. There is a lot of thread of empathy for mentally or emotionally disturbed people, who believe their problems are minor.
Several major characters portray symptoms of such a disturbance, including Olive who tries to kill herself in the opening scene, Olive’s former student Kevin who seems to have inherited psychosis from his mother Rachel and Olive’s secret boyfriend, high school English teacher Jim O’Casey who is played by Peter Mullan.
Throughout the series, the filmmakers give us quite extraordinary moments of empathy and lyricism. This includes the scene where Kevin hallucinates plants growing out of a bar singer’s baby grand piano and the pathetic way Henry overdoes him smile while talking to his cute pharmacy employee and especially the shots where Olive voluntarily isolates herself from her son’s wedding reception in an upstairs bedroom.
Why is Oliver in such a way? As the series unfolds the answers are revealed. Olive is still haunted by her father’s suicide, her son hates her and her husband Henry has a crush on his new pharmacist assistant Denise, played by Zoe Kazan.
The show Oliver Kitteridge presents an old fashioned vision of working class America, expressed by its gray costal town. However the depressed realism is something unreal and not less than a joke. No town could actually be so bleak, where around every corner it seems characters are talking about committing suicide and killing themselves.
Well it is very difficult for TV series to depict novels because novels use a flashback-flashforward tool (which was recently seen in Orange is The New Black and Breaking Bad) that TV series have been struggling with. However for this achievement and so many others Oliver Kitteridge is quite satisfying and one of the best things on TV this year.
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