Sep 19

“This Is Where I Leave You”: Therapists Won’t Like This

Welcome Home. Get uncomfortable. Tagline for This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You is the type of star-studded dysfunctional-family dramedy you might get kinda excited about after seeing the previews:

But then you find the disappointing reviews. Many say it’s a predictable and not-funny-enough, not good-enough script—adapted, incidentally, by Jonathan Tropper himself, the author of the 2009 best-selling novel.

Cynthia Fuchs, Pop Matters, sums it all up: “Girls want babies, boys want reassurance, girls nurture, boys need to wander. Dad is dead. Long live formula.”

Despite this, you dig even deeper into what the critics are saying. Alas, you find out that not one, but two, therapists are (once again) depicted badly.

More About the Plot and Characters

Rodrigo Perez, IndieWire, describes “the doyenne of the household” (Jane Fonda) as “an audacious TMI-sharing psychiatrist whose bestselling book exploited her own family’s dysfunction for her gain, much to their resentment.” Fonda’s character Hillary posits, “Secrets are a cancer to a family.”

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the brood, per Perez:

…(O)f course the family in question is composed of nondescript characters and recognizable stereotypes. Bateman once again appears in his favorite role: the perpetually exasperated ‘rational’ guy who has to navigate his neurotic and irrational family. There’s Paul (Corey Stoll), the older resentful brother who can’t get his wife (Kathryn Hahn) pregnant. Phillip (Adam Driver), the baby of the family, is an unreliable, juvenile shithead who’s now dating his cougar-esque ex-therapist (Connie Britton). Wendy [Tina Fey] has two kids, a neglectful, asshole workaholic husband (Aaron Lazar), and still pines for an old boyfriend who suffers from a head injury that’s made him slow (Timothy Olyphant). Rose Byrne co-stars as a girl from Judd’s past that just might be the woman he needs now (how opportune!). Unsurprisingly, no one’s happy, everyone’s dealing with different levels of pain and hardship, and that’s life, right?

Although viewers know Hillary’s adult kids aren’t happy with their mom’s oversharing, specifically how other family members react to Phillip’s new relationship and/or to the boundary-breaking therapist he’s seeing is info I couldn’t find.

Chris Nashawaty, ew.comconcludes the following, however, about the various characters’ representations: “The movie is so festooned with clichés it proves that Tolstoy was dead wrong when he wrote that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. This clan is just like the one in August: Osage County (or Home For the Holidays or The Family Stone), only with more eye-rolling one-liners about Jane Fonda’s cantaloupe-sized breast implants. It’s a misfire that’s especially confounding considering that you couldn’t ask for a more promising cast of brother-and-sister bickerers.”

Selected Reviews

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter: “You laugh in spite of yourself in This Is Where I Leave You, a potty-mouthed comedy with enough exasperation, aggravations, long-standing grievances and get-me-outta-here moments of family stress to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever had to endure large clan gatherings that might have lasted a bit too long.”

Scott Foundas, Variety: “Sitting shiva makes the heart grow fonder (and the libido rage and the repressed grievances runneth over) in ‘This Is Where I Leave You,’ a sprawling ensemble dramedy that starts out like a full-tilt sit-com and gradually migrates to a place of genuine feeling.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “The actors all seem lost and jittery. The direction seems phoned in while waiting in line at some suburban ATM machine. If you crave freshness, originality or quality, cherish the decision to pass up This Is Where I Leave You and be content with the knowledge that you didn’t miss a thing.”

Dec 09

Carol Burnett, Winner of This Year’s Mark Twain Prize

“I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that don’t work out, that’s when I’ve really learned.” Carol Burnett

When beloved comedian Carol Burnett was growing up, she was poor, had two alcoholic parents who divorced when she was a preschooler, and her parenting was mainly provided by her hypochondriacal grandmom. Not that she ever bemoans her fate. She’s often said that it was all relative; because everyone else around her had similar upbringings, it just seemed normal.

In her adult life she’s survived, among other things, her own divorce and having a daughter, actress/singer Carrie Hamilton, who successfully battled drug addiction only to later succumb to cancer at the age of 38. Writer of several memoirs, Burnett’s most recent, in fact, is Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story (2013).

When I was growing up, I considered Carol Burnett, now the most recent and 16th winner of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, my idol. Tina Fey, who opened the televised tribute to Burnett and was proud to be the first of the night to declare her own idolatry, so valued The Carol Burnett Show  that it became “a disciplinary tool” used by her parents—no watching it when she misbehaved. Luckily, my mom didn’t get that memo. (Not that I ever misbehaved.)

According to Margy RochlinNew York Post, Burnett, idol indeed to so many, had been offered the Mark Twain Prize prior to this. She had to turn it down, however, due to scheduling conflicts.

The actual tribute, featuring many presenters—mostly celebrities also known for their wit and humor—occurred in late October and aired about a month later. You can now watch the entire two-hour show on PBS.org. (Click on the link.)

Or, just watch a brief clip here of Amy Poehler portraying Roz, Burnett’s personal assistant.

Feb 04

“30 Rock” and Liz Lemon Come to a Finale But Will Live On Forever

30 Rock has come to an end. It happened last week, and if you haven’t yet seen the finale, I’m not intending on ruining that for you.

The Recent Tributes (30 Rock Is Quotable, Fast-Paced, Funny, Relatable)

30 Rock was my favorite show. I sneezed once during an episode and missed seven jokes.” Nikki Glaser, WitStream

Liz Lemon’s universality, relatability. Chris HarnickThe Huffington Post:

In Liz Lemon, Tina Fey created a character that could appeal to pretty much every kind of audience and not just man/woman. Liz was overworked, looking for love, incredibly nerdy, sweet, lazy in some aspects, a lover of food and so much more. She made a sort of misfit into a hero…

Liz Lemon as female role model. Blog Dorothy Surrenders:

I will miss ’30 Rock’ for so many reasons. Its humor, intellect, zaniness, nerdiness, metaness, catchphrasecoiningness. (BLERG FOREVER!) But probably most of all I will miss it for allowing Liz Lemon to be so smart, unabashedly so. And despite her flaws and foibles, her capability – to run the show and trust her intellect – was never in question.

As comic Steve Martin once said, “I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.”

A line that, with its mixture of intellect and silliness, would itself have fit so well on 30 Rock.

Liz (Tina Fey) had some of the best lines, of course. Throughout the series, fans of the show have been known to compile “Lemonisms.” Just a few:

  • I pretty much just do whatever Oprah tells me to.
  • You are my heroine! And by heroine I mean lady hero. I don’t want to inject you and listen to jazz.
  • If reality TV has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t keep people with no shame down.

The Finale (“Because the human heart is not properly connected to the human brain, I love you. And I’m gonna miss you.” Liz Lemon)

Much is jam-packed into the finale. Rest assured, there are themes totally relevant to Minding Therapy. Jack (Alec Baldwin), for instance, questioning if he’s really happy—and if not, how to be. Liz working on a similar dilemma.

In addition, there are issues related to abandonment, friendship, fear of goodbyes, suicidality, antidepressants, food obsession, workplace dysfunction, narcissism, life meaning and fulfillment, personal growth, marital and parental roles, etc.

Ethan AndertonScreen Rant:

For a show with as much ridiculous humor, non sequiturs and general nonsense as 30 Rock, this finale pulled at the heartstrings and allowed each of the chief characters to have a touching moment in the sun…

This whole time 30 Rock was about love, friendship and life, as any good TV show should be. It just happened to have a cast of great comedians, phenomenal writing, and a lot of Liz Lemon snacking…

Whether you haven’t watched any or much of the seven years of the series or have loved it as much as I have, there will still be chances to see the finale and everything that came before it, I’m sure, on your DVR’s or DVD’s or in reruns. Perhaps while munching on some tasty night cheese.

As for me, wherever the 30 Rock folks are right now, I want to go to there.

Jan 30

“Bossypants” By Tina Fey, Comic Chronicler of Everyday Problems

Tina Fey‘s bestselling book Bossypants (2011) was released this month in paperback. As described in one review: “Bossypants gets to the heart of why Tina Fey remains universally adored: she embodies the hectic, too-many-things-to-juggle lifestyle we all have, but instead of complaining about it, she can just laugh it off” (Kevin Nguyen, Amazon.com).

Or, as Fey herself writes: “Because I am nothing if not an amazing businesswoman, I researched what kind of content makes for bestselling books. It turns out the answer is ‘one-night stands,’ drug addictions, and recipes. Here, we are out of luck. But I can offer you lurid tales of anxiety and cowardice.”

She says a number of things that I find quite relevant to self-growth and/or mental health issues. For example, on dealing with the childhood trauma of having her face slashed and permanently scarred by a stranger: “I accepted all the attention at face value and proceeded through life as if I really were extraordinary. I guess what I’m saying is, this has all been a wonderful misunderstanding.”

Other quotes from Bossypants on topics of interest:

“My ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivaled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne.”

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

“There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”

“I keep my eyes on the sea, waiting to be rocketed into it on a wave of fire. I’ll be ready for it to happen and that way it won’t happen. It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.”

In 2010, Fey became only the third woman to ever win the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, arguably the biggest award a comedian in the U.S. can receive. The award, which has been given annually since 1998, was given to Whoopi Goldberg in 2001 and Lily Tomlin in 2003.

When she gave her acceptance speech at the Mark Twain event, she directed the following remarks to her parents in the audience: “They say that funny people often come from a difficult childhood or a troubled family. So to my family, I say, ‘They’re giving me the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor! What did you animals do to me???”

Here’s a watch-worthy clip from her speech: