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Get Mad and Get Even: Laura Dern in Enlightened

Laura Dern in Enlightened (HBO)  is my latest favest TV heroine – through episode 3 of season 1, “Someone Else’s Life,” as far as I’ve gotten. It goes without saying that where goes Dern, go memories of innocence lost – Dern as Sandy in Blue Velvet (1986) played opposite Kyle MacLachlan. She was the curious-sheltered girl turned inquisitor of the dark side, per David Lynch.  Tall and tan and young and lovely troweling up metaphoric maggots bears, also, on her new appearance in this show. And while not wanting to grovel I love that HBO is calling Dern’s part a “nervous breakthrough” (written for her by Mike White).

It’s not only a Medusa-head angry woman that is on view in Dern’s portrayal of a career woman who’s had a nervous breakdown and come back to the corporation, attempting to stand tall while having been demoted below floors to the island of lost toys. Enlightened, on first view looks just to be a chick story. The office. The ex. The mom. But it’s all so different, and Dern is so hard to take while in her unraveling manic rant, that she can make you want to scream. Truly. But she’s holding down the fort, too, for men who are watching to get a better bead , as in this comment on the episode by Peter Newmann: HBO is writing a show about my wife. I watch with catharsis. 

Dern’s Amy Jellicoe is comeback-kid, blue-sky dreamer, and the inhabitant of  her own private mania. In a transfixing clarity between fits of crazy,  environment indeed seems destiny for Amy, trapped in a life full of measuring everyone’s apparent better deals (and how human is that)?

The corporate skyscraper that keeps effing with viewer loyalties as to whether Amy is just acting really embarrassing, or really truthful, builds to the tension which flickers like Amy’s moods landing on the instant-est of perusals of the places’s soulless mirrored facade.  This is no Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis. It’s Dern in “health and beauty” land, utterly out of the cosmetic fix, but most mad (angry) when she’s clairvoyant and suspecting herself getting healthier all the time.

For all those who have ever wondered about playing the game, and whether you want to be in or be out, this is a show worth watching. Not to mention Dern’s real-life (and show) mother, Diane Ladd, who revives episodically from the boredom of the 70-year-old female (and how not often is that?) to reflect back, as if from one lost generation to another trying to save itself? Isn’t restlessness insufferable? But isn’t it worse if you feel nothing?

 

 

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