Oct 29

“Olive Kitteridge”: Depression a Main Theme

Many of us have read and loved Elizabeth Strout‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2008 novel. And now the mini-series is coming to HBO Sunday and Monday. Olive Kitteridge the film adaptation has so far garnered nothing but rave reviews, including for—and perhaps especially for—the lead performances.

HBO’s official description:

A look at a seemingly placid New England town that is actually wrought with illicit affairs, crime and tragedy, all told through the lens of Olive, whose wicked wit and harsh demeanor mask a warm but troubled heart and staunch moral center. The story spans 25 years and focuses on Olive’s relationships with her husband, Henry, the good-hearted and kindly town pharmacist; their son, Christopher, who resents his mother’s approach to parenting; and other members of their community.

Olive and her husband are played by Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins; son Christopher by John Gallagher, Jr.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “While not all the book’s 13 interconnected stories and throng of characters are covered, the tone is captured and the essential elements given ample breathing space in this emotionally satisfying, funny-sad four-part HBO miniseries. Produced by Tom Hanks’ Playtone banner, it’s directed with an impeccable balance of sensitivity and humor by Lisa Cholodenko and expertly adapted by Jane Anderson.”

According to Robbie Collin, Telegraph, Cholodenko has dubbed the material’s tone “traumady.”

DEPRESSION IN THE FAMILY of Olive Kitteridge

Peter Debruge, Variety:

Thematically speaking, shotguns and fathers’ suicides loom heavy over much of the miniseries, which tends to view its ‘Our Town’-like cross-section of Crosby residents in generational terms, where children are constantly dealing with their parents’ baggage, and where middle-school teachers [like Olive] appear to have relatively little impact on the lives of their students…Depression may or may not run in Olive’s family. She certainly seems to have passed it on to her son, Christopher…who grows up resenting his mom, and in the teleplay’s opening scene, we see Olive, widowed and unhappy at the end of her life, going for a picnic in the woods where, instead of bringing food, she unpacks a revolver.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “Depression is a significant theme here. It drifts like gray clouds across the sleepy town and the gorgeous New England scenery, surfacing from one generation to the next in family histories. One of the most affecting threads concerns couch-bound Valium popper Rachel Coulson (Rosemarie DeWitt), and later, her grown son Kevin (Cory Michael Smith), back from doing psychiatry at Columbia and ready to give up on life until Olive interrupts his despair.”

OLIVE

Peter Debruge, Variety: “For much of the mini, Olive actually appears to be a secondary character in her own life, sort of the surly opposite of a busybody — a woman who’s always present, but seldom wants to engage with other people’s troubles.”

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “A blunt, abrasive woman with a cutting sense of humor, she has little time for words of comfort or flattery, and while she’s not without compassion, she shows it sparingly, on her own strictly unsentimental terms.”

OLIVE AND HENRY

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:

Their union is a classic mismatch, and one shudders often as Henry’s upbeat observations and affectionate gestures are struck down by Olive’s unvarnished worldview, distilled into a sardonic quip. In the first and arguably strongest episode, ‘Pharmacy,’ they both entertain the notion of more suited soul mates — Olive with her fellow teacher Jim O’Casey (Peter Mullan), a complicated man with an affinity for the haunted poetry of John Berryman; Henry with the sweet-natured mouse Denise (Zoe Kazan), who works for him. Watching Jenkins’ face transform into giggling boyish delight around her is a heartbreaking joy.

CHRISTOPHER

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “As Chris goes through one unhappy marriage and a lot of therapy before finding a more workable though still imperfect domestic situation, his resentment bubbles up over the difficulties of growing up with a mother like Olive.”

TRAILER for Olive Kitteridge

One of the available previews has a great opener that addresses the depression within the family:

May 11

“The Kids Are All Right”: And the Moms Are Lesbians

The true experiences of Zach Wahls (see yesterday’s post) may be reminiscent to some of the recent dramedy directed by Lisa CholodenkoThe Kids Are All Right (2010). It stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple, Nic and Jules, who have two teenagers who were conceived with the aid of an anonymous sperm donor.

Like many parents—of any sexual orientation—Nic and Jules do not have a perfect relationship. And it really teeters on the edge when they actually meet the sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who’s been found by the kids.

The trailer for The Kids Are All Right includes snippets of interviews with the cast about this unique story:

Selected Reviews

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: “Cholodenko and cowriter Stuart Blumberg have crafted a loving work about family that will resonate as true for those who find their experience reflected on the big screen and will be revelatory to others.”

Dana Stevens, Slate: “…a comedy that doesn’t take cheap shots, a drama that doesn’t manipulate, a movie of ideas that doesn’t preach.”

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: “The basic joke here, and it’s a rich one, is that the dynamics of gay marriages differ little from those of straight marriages. But that joke also serves as a catalyst for some startlingly beautiful considerations…”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “The performances are all close to perfect, which is to say that the imperfections of each character are precisely measured and honestly presented.”

Dr. Ellen Weber Libby, psychologist: “…captures, with respect and sensitivity, the hard work required to keep marriages alive, to raise children, and for both children and adults to meet life’s challenges.”

Don’t let this element escape you: the kids in this family have in fact turned out all right. And research backs this up. As reported by The Huffington Post, “In a 2010 review of virtually every study on gay parenting, New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian parents.”