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:

Oct 16

“ACOD”: Adult Child of Divorced Parents Has Quasi-Therapist

Not to be confused with the real world’s ACOD, which for years has stood for the 12-step program Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, the title of the new film A.C.O.D. stands for Adult Child(ren) of Divorce.

Co-written and directed by actual ACOD Stu Zicherman, the movie is officially described as follows:

A.C.O.D. follows Carter (Adam Scott), a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. Having survived the madness of his parents’ (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) divorce, Carter now has a successful career and supportive girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But when his younger brother (Clark Duke) gets engaged, Carter is forced to reunite his bitterly divorced parents and their new spouses (Amy Poehler and Ken Howard) for the wedding, causing the chaos of his childhood to return including his wacky therapist (Jane Lynch).

But is she really a therapist? It’s set up in the trailer:

So, ACOD Carter discovers when returning to Dr. Judith in the midst of a crisis that she wasn’t in fact his child therapist; actually, she was studying and writing about kids of divorce. And now that she’s seen him again, she decides she’s interested in doing a 20-year follow-up.

This is groundbreaking stuff, after all. “Do you realize you’re the least-parented, least-nurtured generation ever?,” asks Dr. Judith.

Although film critic Dan Callahan, rogerebert.com, disses Lynch’s character as “an oblivious and self-centered quasi-scientist who made big bucks out of telling his childhood story in a book and who now wants to make more money with a sequel,” that doesn’t mean she’s unimportant. Indeed, Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, gives Zicherman kudos for making Jane Lynch’s relationship with Carter a key ingredient of the film. “Lynch, less farcical than usual, speaks hilarious truths in her lightly hostile way.”

Claudia Puig, USA Today, agrees: “…(S)he imparts obvious truths like ‘I’ve always thought funerals should be about the person that died’ with an air of scholarly authority.”

Another key element of the movie’s plot is that Carter’s life adjustment isn’t what he thinks it is, which leads to an existential crisis and relationship problems.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: “Carter is an expert at managing his own life; he’s just not so great at letting go and living it.”

A conclusion from Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “…an unfunny comedy about a guy mooning over his parents’ divorce decades later, is so eager to please it’s hard to hate. But it’s sluggish even at 87 minutes, clichéd and gives you nothing of interest to look at other than some familiar faces.”