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Föreningen Film i Malmö presents Summer Serieously: Part One
The four-part miniseries event based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Elizabeth Strout starring Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins & Bill Murray
2014, 3h59m, English with Swedish subtitles
THURSDAY, JULY 4
DOORS OPEN @ 15:45
Episode 1 @ 16:00
Episode 2 @ 17:10
30 min intermission
Episode 3 @ 19:45
Episode 4 @ 20:50
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko, Olive Kitteridge is a rare treasure, a measured, understated portrait of a marriage that finds poetry in the most prosaic of settings and circumstances: flinty, stolid citizens of a small, insular town in coastal Maine. There is no glamour and little romance, yet there is a fine-grained mystery to the most ordinary, blunted lives.
The show’s tagline is “There’s no such thing as a simple life,” and it lives up to it by dividing the series into four parts and four hours still doesn’t cover the whole tale, which spans 25 years around the title character, Olive.
It takes time to see what is eating at Olive — and causing her sudden flashes of icy rage — but it’s pretty clear from the start that she is no day at the beach. Plenty of shows focus on women who are unlikely heroines; Olive is an unlikely heroine who at first is almost comically unlikable. (excerpted from NYT: “She’s Depressed. She Enjoys it.” by Alessandra Stanley)
And though we don’t necessarily like her, or even forgive her, we can’t help but be fascinated by this woman. For one thing, there’s something startling and invigorating about her very abrasiveness: her immunity to the socially ingrained desire to please, her ability to do without the comfort of approval; her wallowing knee-deep into old age with her eyes unblinkered. And then there are those spurts of visceral generosity toward fellow sufferers, when she suddenly leaps out of character, dropping what Henry calls her “Oliveness” to save or succour another soul in torment.
(Excerpted from Sight & Sound: “A Chill Nor’easter: Olive Kitteridge” by Molly Haskell)
There’s also a thread of empathy for mentally or emotionally disturbed people who believe their problems are minor (compared to, say, those of a violent psychotic) and therefore stiff-upper-lip them in silence, so as not to risk embarrassment by asking for help. Several major characters manifest symptoms of such a disturbance, including Olive, who shows signs of bipolar personality disorder and prepares to kill herself in the program’s opening scene; her former student Kevin (Cory Michael Smith), who seems to have inherited psychosis from his mother Rachel (Rosemary DeWitt); and Olive’s secret boyfriend, high-school English teacher Jim O’Casey (Peter Mullan), who’s got that I’ll-be-over-here-reading-poetry-and-drinking-and-giving-you-the-side-eye sort of depression. At no point, though, do screenwriters Cholodenko and Anderson cross into the terrain of the public service announcement.
This mental/emotional disturbance material serves mainly to drive home the fact that, to one degree or another, everybody has a personality disorder, or else some sort of compulsion or blind spot that they must bear without complaint, for fear of seeming defective, weak or whiny. (“I think it’s stupid to dwell on the past,” Olive exclaims, in one of many statements of strength that are really admissions of denial.) The ultimate effect is to make tragedy faintly absurd by letting you know that the main characters in Olive Kitteridge are already dealing with a lot of stuff that they’re conditioned not to talk about; when death or some other dark event strikes, it’s just adding insult to injury. Scenes that might normally favor quiet desperation play as droll once you know how privately put-upon everyone is. (“We’re here if you need us,” a loved one tells Olive after a tragedy. “Sap,” she mutters.) Throughout, the filmmakers give us quietly extraordinary moments of empathy and lyricism, such as the scene where Kevin hallucinates plants growing out of a bar singer’s baby grand piano as she sings the Carpenters’ “Close to You,” and the pathetic way Henry overdoes his smiles and laughs whenever he talks to a cute pharmacy employee (Zoe Kazan) that he’s enamored with and that Olive has cruelly nicknamed “the Mouse”; and the shots of Olive voluntarily sequestering herself from her son’s wedding reception in an upstairs bedroom after alienating her new family.
The sense that every character is put upon, or weighed down, might explain why Olive is such a delightful character despite being such a thumb-size pill of a human being: Her eruptions of needling viciousness feel liberating at times, like steam blasts from the id that others tamp down. Which is not to say that the program positions her as any sort of Life Force worth emulating: We’re always aware that she’s afflicted by some sort of deep disorder, and that it runs in the family (she’s quite aware that whatever she’s got is genetic, thank you very much). And neither Olive nor the rest of the cast (which includes Bill Murray as a genial businessman of extremely conservative politics) becomes purely illustrative, or purely some kind of case-in-point. They’re all people, written and directed with insight and incarnated with unnerving precision by every actor who passes before the camera’s lens. (The saltwater-abraded panoramas are by Frederick Elmes, who shot some of David Lynch’s masterpieces, including Blue Velvet and The Straight Story.)
Olive Kitteridge is also, in its modest way, a significant advance in television narrative, taking some of the flashback-flash-forward devices that were deployed so brazenly in recent American TV series (including Orange Is the New Black, season five of Breaking Bad, and season four of Arrested Development) and using them to split open scenes- and sequences-in-progress and completely change what we were about to think or feel about them. The flashback somehow doesn’t destroy the delicate spell that has already been cast, but instead enhances our appreciation of the “present” moment, and makes it more profoundly sorrowful. This is the sort of thing that novels have been doing for about a hundred years now, but that movies and TV series have often struggled with (mainly because they’re under tremendous pressure to be linear and to drive the plot forward constantly). For all these achievements and so many others, Olive Kitteridge is hugely satisfying, easily one of the best things I’ve seen on TV this year.
(excerpted from VULTURE:”Frances McDormand Is Perfect in HBO’s Olive Kitteridge”
PRODUCTION: An HBO Miniseries presentation of a Playtone production, in association with As Is. Produced by David Coatsworth. Executive producers, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Frances McDormand, Jane Anderson. Co-executive producer, Steven Shareshian.
CREW: Directed by Lisa Cholodenko. Teleplay, Jane Anderson, based on the novel by Elizabeth Strout. Camera (color), Frederick Elmes; editor, Jeffrey M. Werner; music, Carter Burwell; music supervisor, Deva Anderson; production designer, Julie Berghoff; art director, Colin de Rouin; set decorator, Sophie Neudorfer; costume designer, Jenny Eagan; sound (Dolby Digital), Jay Meagher; supervising sound editor/designer, Dave McMoyler; special effects coordinator, Michael Ricci; visual effects supervisors, Bryan Godwin, Jane Sharvina; visual effects, Shade VFX, Encore VFX; assistant director, Jesse Nye; casting, Laura Rosenthal.
CAST: Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Audrey Marie Anderson, Brady Corbet, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ann Dowd, John Gallagher, Jr., Zoe Kazan, Donna Mitchell, Peter Mullan, Bill Murray, Jesse Plemons, Cory Michael Smith, Martha Wainwright.