Reviews of movies and TV focused on women

Review: Life and Beth, adulthood isn’t easy

Amy Schumer and Laura Benanti in Life and Beth

Life and Beth, written and often directed by Amy Schumer, looks at what happens to a woman after she loses her mother. Losing a mother is often a life-changing event for women. Amy Schumer offers up a remarkably well-written and coherent look at how it affected one woman.

Life and Beth has 8 episodes of about 30 minutes each. When the story begins Beth is a successful wine salesperson. She’s almost 40. She’s lived with Matt (Kevin Kane) for 6 years. Their relationship is a big yawn.

She meets her mother, Jane (Laura Benanti), for an afternoon of shopping. We see how much they both love and hate each other. We learn that Jane has a habit of dating married men.

Susannah Flood in Life and Beth
Little sis Ann

On the way home from shopping, Jane is killed in a car accident. Neither Beth or her sister Ann (Susannah Flood) appear visibly upset about losing their mother. But it does a number on Beth as the days go by.

They throw a perfunctory funeral. The most upset person at the funeral is Matt, who loved Beth’s mom more than Beth did. Their father, Leonard (Michael Rapaport), can’t be found and isn’t told about the death. Much later in the story we learn that Leonard is living in the park with other homeless men.

The death sparks a number of big changes in Beth. First she dumps Matt. She leaves their Manhattan apartment and goes back to Long Island and her mother’s little house.

Michael Cera and Amy Schumer in Life and Beth

Beth visits a winery on Long Island seeking to market their wine. She meets John (Michael Cera) there. He’s an odd sort of fellow but they hit it off in awkward ways.

Violet Young in Life and Beth

Through a series of flashbacks as Beth struggles with her own life and needs, we learn her backstory. Violet Young is terrific as Young Beth. Lily Fisher plays Young Ann. Laura Benanti and Michael Rapaport are their younger selves.

Beth’s father was a drunk. Her mother was a serial homewrecker. She ruined the marriage of Beth’s best friend Liz’s (Grace Power as a girl) parents. As the layers of her childhood hurts and hurdles are revealed we realize that Beth’s fractured relationship with Liz affects her almost as much as the loss of her mother.

I mentioned how well-written the series is. The staff of writers is mostly women. Brilliantly revealed flashbacks and current growth in relationships and friendships work together to create a deep portrait of Beth and her issues.

You expect Amy Schumer to be funny, but she’s subdued here, a bit depressed. Instead she created a series of secondary characters who add humor even as they help advance the story.

Murray Hill in Life and Beth

One of those characters is Murray (Murray Hill), Beth’s boss. Interestingly, Murray Hill was also a character in a similar series about a woman nearing 40 who finally figures out her life in Somebody Somewhere.

The entire season is available on Hulu now. I found it excellent.

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