She’s hard to watch, but worth the dis­com­fort

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

LIFE is full of choices. If you choose to be a dis­agree­able per­son, you might live a rather un­happy life and end up alone. If you choose to make a TV minis­eries about such a per­son, you might alien­ate your au­di­ence by cre­at­ing a drama that’s sim­ply too hard to watch. And if you choose to watch a minis­eries that some­one has made about a very dif­fi­cult character, you might have to en­dure sev­eral hours of re­lent­lessly cheer­less drama be­fore re­al­iz­ing you’ve just wit­nessed a truly re­mark­able act­ing per­for­mance. All of th­ese are true when it comes to Olive Kit­teridge, a bleak but beau­ti­fully per­formed two-part minis­eries that airs Sun­day and Mon­day on HBO Canada (check list­ings for time). Based on a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries by El­iz­a­beth Strout, the four-hour drama ex­am­ines var­i­ous chap­ters, over the span of 25 years, in the life of the tit­u­lar Olive (played by Frances McDor­mand), a teacher, wife and mother whose per­son­al­ity might best be de­scribed as caus­tic. Richard Jenk­ins plays her pere­nially put-upon hus­band, Henry, the af­fa­ble and ev­er­help­ful town phar­ma­cist whose good na­ture is put to an ex­treme test ev­ery time he leaves his work­place and re­turns to the ocean­front­cot­tage home he shares with Olive and their son, Christo­pher. Olive is ed­u­cated and in­tel­li­gent, which only serves to sharpen her judg­men­tal tone. She refers to peo­ple she doesn’t like (a group that in­cludes very nearly ev­ery­one, liv­ing or dead) as “dopes” and “saps” and “mice,” seems in­ca­pable of giv­ing or re­turn­ing af­fec­tion, and sim­ply can’t re­strain her­self from be­ing crit­i­cal and/or dis­mis­sive of ev­ery sin­gle thing her hus­band and son do or say. Sim­ply put, she’s a ter­ri­ble bitch. And de­fi­antly, proudly so — in a dis­cus­sion with Henry in which the topic of de­pres­sion is raised, Olive says she’ll gladly ac­cept the la­bel: “Happy to have it. Goes with be­ing smart.” Which, or course, also makes her a not-al­to­gether-pleas­ant character to watch. Olive Kit­teridge def­i­nitely won’t suit many view­ers’ tastes, but those who com­mit to the emo­tional en­durance test that the minis­eries’ four-hour run en­tails will be richly re­warded by hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced some of the

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