The Right Actress For The Right Role
Mrs. Fletcher is a Mini I’d Like To…Binge
Kathryn Hahn has always been one of the hardest actresses to quantify. Beautiful without being conventionally sexy, tall and with a brash voice, she has thrived best within the new Golden Age, particularly considering her gift (which anyone who saw the Bad Moms franchise well know) to be brash enough for a laugh. I particularly admired her work as Raquel, the perpetually put upon rabbi at the center of Transparent, the constantly beleaguered political consultant in Parks and Recreation, and the obsessed lover at the center of the gone-too-soon I Love Dick. Now, for what seems to be the first time, she is the lead at the center of one of the most remarkable limited series of the year, Mrs. Fletcher.
The series is at the center of a best-selling Tom Perotta novel, a writer who may been the source of some truly brilliant adaptations. Alexander Payne’s Election is regarded as a classic, and I’ve always found his Little Children one of the more undervalued films ever made. Nor he is a stranger to bringing his own work to TV: The Leftovers was one of the most incredible accomplishments of the last few years. So it makes sense that he should choose to bring another, smaller yet no less detailed work to TV. Hahn plays the title role, a woman who spends her days work at an elder care center, whose husband left her and is raising an autistic child with his new wife, and who seems to have a real blindspot about her son Brendan (Jackson White), a student who seems to have cruised through high school, who clearly has a streak as a bully, and given his talk when having sex, is a misogynist in the making. He really seems unequipped to handle even the most lack state college (his meeting with his adviser shows he has little imagination) and doesn’t seem to care much about leaving his own mother.
Much of the first episodes are about Eve’s inability to fill her empty nest. She tries to go to a continuing education class where she seems unable to express her fears, and his reluctant to go on a date. But her real problems begin when she Googles the word ‘MILF’ and begins to enter a bizarre and hysterical obsession with a very particular kind of internet porn that very quickly begins to infiltrate her deal with her life.
Mrs. Fletcher is a limited series unlike many of the Golden Age. Whereas most of them try to pack so much information into what seems to be nine or ten hours, Perotta and his staff have taken the term more literally and are satisfied with seven half-hour segments. Yet there is very little terseness or lack of detail. We see Hahn dealing with an issue of an elderly patient constantly caught masturbating in public (Bill Raymond, one of the more undervalued actors in TV) and the lack of sympathy his son seems to have to what he has done compared to Eve’s genuine pain at having to release him. We see her eventual date going badly because she sees all the fellow travelers that she doesn’t want to be a part of.
Unlike so many literary adaptations on TV, I actually read the novel well before an adaptation is in the works and therefore have an idea where it’s going. I know that Brendan is going to have increasing difficulties adjusting to his new world, and its going to lead to something he is not equipped to deal with. I know that Julian (Owen Teague) a young man we see him bully in the premiere has been traumatized so badly he had to go on medication, is going to get to a relationship of his own with Eve. I know that there will be an increased relationship with Margo, the head of the class is Eve is taken. I even know how it ends.
All of this makes for a very awkward comedy, but it’s the kind of work that Hahn has been working in and towards her whole life. It may be an exaggeration to say that for her this is a role she was born to play, but there have been scenes in the past two episodes that I can’t imagine anyone other than Hahn being able to pull off. Perotta has no plans so far to turn Mrs. Fletcher into a regular series, but then again, there’s no one more familiar than he is than taking your source material and bringing it into groundbreaking territory. For now, though, I’ll just revel in the bizarre laughs that come from the world Mrs. Fletcher — the series and the actress — live in.
My score: 4.25 stars.