Oct 07

“Divorce” (HBO): Fictional Dramedy About the Process

“Divorce” is, in some ways, about how separation is easier declared than executed. Sonia Saraiya, Variety

Like the person at the party who breaks an awkward silence with an insightfully candid remark, “Divorce” feels like it’s exposing the inner workings of one of life’s most common romantic experiences. Ben Travers, IndieWire

Reviewers of the new HBO dramedy Divorce are quick to point out that Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Frances is a character unlike Carrie on Sex and the City. In fact, she’s “a kind of anti-Carrie,” states Susan Dominus, New York Times, and “someone long married, living (brace yourself) in the suburbs, and working as a corporate recruiter, her arty dreams subsumed by financial necessity. Her husband — though not for much longer — is Robert (Thomas Haden Church), a real estate entrepreneur down on his luck. Frances is far from a starry-eyed romantic: She has cheated on her husband; she is a narcissistic oversharer, a foul-mouthed accuser, a weak-kneed manipulator. She is also, as played by Ms. Parker, deeply real and somehow appealing.”

Frances, states Sonia Saraiya, Variety, is also “the show’s emotional center.”

Dave Nemetz, TVLine, about husband Robert: “…a profoundly sad man, a volcano of male resentment, and the childishly vindictive way he lashes out at Frances to soothe his wounded ego is both tough to watch and hilarious.”

More from Saraiya about Robert as well as the relationship between him and Frances, who in the course of their 10-plus years together have been raising two kids:

Robert has the demeanor of a military man without a war to fight, a Marlboro Man who’s run out of cigarettes. He has the bluster of a World War I veteran, delivering curt assessments that could be mistaken for declarations of war. But behind his red-cheeked machismo and surprising comfort with bodily waste, he is a man terrified that his justifiable anger is meaningless…(E)ach drives the other first to unbelievable rage, and then later, to surprising generosity. Their viability as a couple changes with every passing minute, making their own will-they/won’t-they arc, such as it is, feel just as unknowable to the audience as it is to the characters themselves. It’s possible to see why they fell for each other, even as it’s easy to see why they might be better off splitting up.

Following the decision to divorce, the couple tries both counseling and mediation (episodes three and four) before getting to the heavier-duty legal stuff.

Other cast members include Molly Shannon and Talia Balsam as friends of Frances. Shannon’s Diane is married to Nick (Tracy Letts).

Another important series element, which will be appealing to some and not to others, involves class issues. Saraiya: “’Divorce’ carries with it a degree of tiresome upper-middle-class angst about how hard it is to have so many shiny things.”

Esther Zuckerman, AVClub: “…Frances and Robert’s travails often amount to ‘white people problems’.”

And from Nemetz: “It’s an old cliché that money can’t buy happiness, but Divorce proves that in spades.”