Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Olive Kitteridge" on Television

Elizabeth Strout’s 2008 novel, “Olive Kitteridge,” was a bestseller, and I was one of the many readers who found it compelling. So when HBO created a four-hour mini-series of the novel that showed a couple of weeks ago, I had to watch it. I was very impressed by the production, which was quite faithful to the novel. Those who produced and directed it were not afraid to show the dark side of the novel and the main character; by “dark” I don’t mean evil but rather damaged, sad, depressed, cynical. Frances McDormand does an excellent job of portraying Olive in all her complexity; despite Olive's sad, harsh, and unbending side, McDormand shows the humanity and vulnerability of this character as well. Richard Jenkins, the actor who portrays Olive’s husband Henry, is equally good; his character is long-suffering, trying to understand and be patient with Olive. Their love for each other is clear, despite rarely being openly expressed. Because they have trouble communicating, they both turn to others for some of their emotional connections; although there is probably also some attraction in both these cases, it is not acted on, or at least this production does not suggest that. The other actors are also good, and the production is beautifully executed. Although it may seem slow to some viewers, it is slow in a realistic way, showing the daily lives of these characters in a small town; watching the characters and their interactions is riveting. For readers with access to it, I highly recommend this mini-series version of “Olive Kitteridge.”
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