Review: I Love Dick

I Love Dick as a television series is highly unusual. As a work of art it is a dazzling meditation on love, sexuality, and feminine perspective. The series shows the imagery and iconography of the female gaze explored through sexual obsession and feminine desire. I Love Dick was created by Jill Soloway of Transparent. Continue reading “Review: I Love Dick”

Watch This: Trailer(s) for Bad Moms

Bad Moms stars Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn as the bad moms. Other moms in the story are played by Christina Applegate and Jada Pinkett Smith. Normally a cast like this would get me very excited, but my excitement is tempered by the fact that both writers and directors are male (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore). Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer(s) for Bad Moms”

Transparent Season 2 Episode 1: Let the Pfeffermans Begin

Transparent gave Amazon Prime members an early preview with the release of season 2, episode 1 yesterday. The remainer of the season will be available on December 11.

I don’t plan to review or recap each episode individually, but I couldn’t resist commenting on the early release episode 1. I’ll write about the season as a whole after it releases.

Transparent season 2 begins with Sarah (Amy Landecker) and Tammy’s (Melora Hardin) wedding. It’s just as crazy and noisy as the preview you’ve probably seen led you to believe. Continue reading “Transparent Season 2 Episode 1: Let the Pfeffermans Begin”

Watch This: Teaser for Season 2 of Transparent

“Did he call me sir?”

Yes, it’s almost time for Transparent season 2 on Amazon.

Amazon released a tiny clip to let you know that the characters you learned to love in season 1, are going to remain true to themselves. It’s a bit hard to tell in all the confusion, but it looks like Sarah (Amy Landecker) and Tammy (Melora Hardin) are the ones getting married.

Maura (Jeffrey Tambor), of course, is concerned about looking her best. Josh (Jay Duplass) brought his girl, the rabbi (Kathryn Hahn), and his newly discovered son to the wedding. Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) seems to be alone. We don’t see Syd (Carrie Brownstein) in this clip, but Ali and Syd are scheduled for a romance in season 2.

Based on the expression on Judith Light’s face in this very brief teaser, I’d say she is going to continue killing it as Shelly Pfefferman in season 2. New guest stars for season 2 include Cherry Jones, Anjelica Huston and Tig Notaro. Returning guest stars include Bradley Whitford and Alexandra Billings, among many others.

The series creator Jill Soloway described the new season by saying, “Season two is wild! Now that the bubble wrap is off, it’s time for the whole family to transition.”

And pronouns are still at issue. We live in a time when your choice of pronoun is a symbol of your enlightenment.

“We’re done here.”

Review: Transparent

Transparent was fascinating and compelling. I watched it all the first weekend it was out on Amazon Prime. It’s a coming out story for the character brilliantly played by Jeffrey Tambor.

I’ll try to review it without giving away too many surprises that can’t be gleaned from simply watching the trailer. The review has some mild spoilers.

Maura at her leisure
Maura at her leisure

Late in life, Mort decides to come out and live full time as a woman – Maura. Season 1 was about coming out. If there are hormones or other options in Maura’s future, that will come later. It’s more than Maura’s coming out story. It’s a story about the repercussions for everyone around the transgendered person, particularly the children and the ex-spouse.

Tambor plays Maura with great dignity and sadness. There is occasional joy, but also considerable pain. I’ve seen Tambor in many parts where he is ridiculous, but here he is quiet, vulnerable and stately.

Judith Light as Shelly
Judith Light as Shelly

Judith Light as the ex-wife, Shelly, is absolutely outstanding. In my opinion, it’s the best role she’s ever had in many years as an actor, and she doesn’t waste a second of it. She’s wonderful in the part.

Each of the children has their own particular anguish to deal with in addition to the big news from dad. The 3 children of Mort and Shelley are Sarah (Amy Landecker), Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) and Josh (Jay Duplass). Maura comes out to each child in a different way, and each of them deals with it in a different way. There’s a lot of gender stuff in this story, and not all from Maura.

Sarah with her kids
Sarah with her kids

Sarah leaves her husband Len (Rob Huebel). She takes up with a former lover named Tammy, who is played with verve and charisma by Melora Hardin. Melora Hardin is so good in this part I’m making up a new rule: Melora Hardin should play only butchy parts from now on! As the season progresses, Sarah wobbles a bit between Tammy and Len and the negotiations between her kids and Tammy’s kids. One of Tammy’s ex step children enters the story late in the season and may turn out to be significant in Josh’s life. That isn’t the only child who may turn out to be important in Josh’s life.

Josh and Ali bonding over old vinyl
Josh and Ali bonding over old vinyl

Josh screws just about anything that moves but not for particularly good reasons. He has sexual issues going back to his early teens that still haunt him. Toward the end of season 1 he meets and falls for a rabbi, played by Kathryn Hahn, but this romance is confused by Josh’s past. Here’s wishing Josh and the Rabbi some good luck for season 2!

Ali is the flake. Rootless, jobless, confused, frequently high, self-centered and perhaps the most loyal and loving of the bunch. She’s clueless about who she is or what she should do with her life, but she’s trying really hard to get it figured out. She might have an undiagnosed mental illness. Carrie Brownstein plays Syd, Ali’s best friend.

Jill Soloway

Transparent was created, written, produced, and sometimes directed by Jill Soloway. Soloway has a trans parent and the story has been brewing in her for years. That’s her in the photo at the top during an interview with Jeffrey Tambor.

Soloway’s other credits include Six Feet Under and United States of Tara.

Issues

The girls out shopping
The girls out shopping

Most of the issues in the series revolve around gender identity and sexual orientation, or both at once. I mentioned that a lot of the story was about the kids’ reactions to dad switching gender roles, but there are moments showing what Maura goes through. For instance, Maura, Ali and Sarah go shopping. Where does Maura go to pee without causing a riot?

There are issues with getting the right gendered pronoun, questions about what you call your dad when dad is a woman or when Uncle Mort is now – what – Uncle Maura?

Maura and friend Marcy (Bradley Whitford) have some wonderful scenes in flashbacks to the 80s when they identified as cross dressers. Marcy thinks he’s a man who likes dressing up like a woman. But Maura doesn’t feel like a man and she doesn’t know what to do about it when cross-dressing is as close as she can come to what feels real. The flashbacks add understanding to what Mort had to endure to finally decide to become Maura to the entire world.

Jeffrey Tambor is not a Trans Actor

Before the series came out, there was a considerable amount of criticism because Jeffrey Tambor is not a trans actor. There were, in fact, 12 speaking parts for trans actors in the series. Among them, Alexandra Billings plays Davina, one of Maura’s closest friends in the trans community and the trans support group Maura attends.

Soloway has been quoted as saying that she always had Tambor in mind for the part because he reminds her of her father. Her father came out as transgender several years ago, just as Maura struggles to do in the series.

After seeing all of season 1, I think the criticism over the choice of Tambor will fade away. So much of the story is flashbacks to times when Tambor is seen as Mort. Even as the story begins, Mort is still there, struggling to explain to his 3 adult children that he is actually she.

Soloway was quoted on NPR saying about the criticism,

The world knows so little about being trans, and I know very little about being trans — I just know what it’s like to be the child of a trans person. But there’s so little trans representation [and] so few trans people who are creating content, so we really depend on the trans community to help us get it right.

If you have Amazon Prime you should definitely watch this series. It’s listed as a comedy and has comic moments, but it’s also about real and powerful issues that are much on the national consciousness now. Every performance is masterful, the writing is brilliant. As a bonus, the music choices for every episode were perfect. This show needs a soundtrack album. Watch it if you can.

Update

I just discovered this short video, which I think is relevant to the review and adds to it.

Review: This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You is so rich and messy and complicated, I won’t even try to give you the details of the story. You get the basic story watching the trailer, which is that a family comes together to sit shiva for 7 days because of the death of the father.

Jason Bateman
Jason Bateman

In many ways, this is Jason Bateman’s film. As Judd Altman, the eldest brother, he carries us into and out of the story. His particular character gets more development than anyone else’s.

Writer Jonathan Tropper is an absolute genius at creating real feeling characters with just a few brush strokes.

Old man furry slippers do mean something.
Old man furry slippers do mean something.

Tina Fey as Wendy Altman is the big sister. She has two young children of her own. She’s the only sibling with kids – so far. Her son, played by Cade Lappin, regularly steals scenes with his potty chair and his attitude. She knows her brothers better than she knows herself, although she does make an effort to uncover some of her baggage while sitting on the roof with Judd.

Tina Fey and Jane Fonda
Tina Fey and Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda is the mother. She’s famous for writing a book about the foibles and intimate details of her 4 children. She overshares everything but the most important facts. She brings her children home and enforces her demand that they stay there for 7 days to sit shiva knowing how explosive and inappropriate it will get, but knowing it needs to happen.

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll
Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll

There’s the responsible middle child played by Corey Stoll and the irresponsible baby brother, played by Adam Driver. They bring home with them assorted spouses, girlfriends, children, impending children, and discarded spouses. Once they are home they have to deal with old girlfriends, old boyfriends, surprising new girlfriends and many degrees of overshared sex.

Debra Monk, Kathryn Hahn and Connie Britton
Debra Monk, Kathryn Hahn and Connie Britton

As I mentioned, every character feels real. They may not have many moments of screen time, but every one of these actors knows how to make something big out of small moments. Especially the smaller parts, played by Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer and Dax Shepard. Even as minor characters, they were nuanced people. I want Connie Britton’s character to have a whole movie of her own.

The only character that felt off was the Rabbi, played for comic relief by Ben Schwartz. The fact that everyone in the family insisted on calling him by his childhood nickname, Boner, even in Temple, tells you how that went. There was plenty going on that was truly laugh-out-loud funny without making the Rabbi into a joke.

With so many characters, each with their individual stories, the interactions were complicated. Each of the siblings had personal issues and responses to the loss of their father. The plot had lots of twists and turns and some elegant surprises. The film had humor, emotion, and touching moments of love and connection.

The beautiful thing about family dramas is there are no gun battles, no explosions, and no car chases. Instead, there are meaningful talks on the roof, ineffectual fisticuffs on the front lawn, and shared moments of revelation. This film has heart. It’s as good as any family drama you will ever see, probably better.

All images © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Watch This: Trailer for This is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You boasts an incredible cast. It looks hilarious. It’s based on a novel by Jonathan Tropper, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. It’s scheduled for a September release.

Look at this cast: Rose Byrne, Abigail Spencer, Adam Driver, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Dax Shepard, Corey Stoll, Ben Schwartz, Aaron Lazar, and Debra Monk.

Really, Tina Fey alone would have been enough for me, but all those fabulous actors – oh, my, yes.

This is Where I Leave You
This is Where I Leave You

Here’s how Warner Bros. describes the film.

When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide-driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.

Take a look.

It sure looks good to me. What do you think?