Tag Archives: Girls

The Truth Hurts: How HBO’s Girls is Growing Up

It seems very fitting to me that Girls, HBO’s much-discussed comedy/drama about the exploits of a group of female college graduates (and another way of looking at the postgraduate ennui that appears in the likes of Kicking and Screaming, Tiny Furniture and Frances Ha). Much of the discussion around the show has been around the frank way it treats sexuality, and the unapologetic narcissism of central character Hannah Horvath. One thing that seems to have been absent from the discussion of the show is just how well the development and what can perhaps be described as maturing of the narrative mirrors the situation of the characters within it.

The three seasons the show has had thus far seem to present different outlooks on the world that these characters inhabit, but all of them seem to spin around the orbit of one thing: Hannah. Season one is very much what could be called the world according to Hannah, and at the core of her development throughout this season is establishing her psychologically and presenting us more with how she views the world as opposed to how she fits into it. I mean, the first season even has an episode (‘Hannah’s Diary’) where the crux of the dramatic action comes from an observation made in the diary that gives the episode it’s title. If that’s not a way of making us intimately familiar with a character’s views on the world and the people around them, I don’t know what is. The second season seems to present a more introspective point of view, closer to Hannah according to the world than the world according to Hannah. Although this introspection reaches it’s peak in the masterful episode ‘One Man’s Trash,’ the rest of the season looks very unapologetically at the impact Hannah’s actions have on those around her, seemingly exposing her to the idea of consequences for the first time, with the episode ‘Bad Friend,’ in which Hannah takes cocaine for a freelance piece, ends with a heated discussion between Hannah and Marnie about which of them is the bad friend, as well as ‘It’s Back’ and ‘On All Fours’ forcing Hannah to confront her uneven mental state when her OCD resurfaces.

These ideas of both Hannah’s views on the world and then, later, the world’s views on Hannah, lead very neatly onto the third season which seems to focus on, if anything, Hannah trying to fit into the “real world.” In season three, she even goes so far as to get a job writing ads for Vogue; not that it lasts too long, given that she quits out of fear that it will crush her creatively, but here we see a Hannah willing to compromise, doing something that is expected of her. Perhaps the most important aspect of the show, and Hannah with it, growing up, is the way her relationship with Adam is shown. Early in the first season, their relationship could be described as being friends-with-benefits on a good day, given Hannah says “when I’m with him he’s so real and so present, and then he seems to disappear and I feel like I invented him” (I’m paraphrasing a little, but that’s the crux of the quote) and perhaps what is ostensibly “grown up” about their relationship is that it changes and grows quite organically. Amidst the chaos of the opening of the second season, their relationship ends and their friendship becomes rocky and uneasy until they’re reunited in ‘Together,’ the season two finale. And it’s during season three that their relationship is at it’s most interesting, as well as being the best barometer of what I suppose you could call the maturity of the show, going on to illustrate the title of this piece; that the truth, in fact, hurts.

As has been mentioned, season three features what I suppose could be called Hannah’s unsuccessful attempt to join the workforce whereas, by contrast Adam manages to do so in glorious fashion, being cast in a Broadway revival of Major Barbara. Now, while there’s plenty of maturity in other places in this season, they sometimes seem to fall prey to that haphazardness that is effective for Girls sometimes, but seems now to be a bit out of place amongst certain plotlines; Jessa’s rehab story is interesting, although the sudden return of Richard E. Grant’s character that throws her into a downward spiral is so much less than the character deserves. To me, it’s when the focus of the season shifts towards Hannah and Adam’s relationship, the last “act” of season three I suppose you could call it, from Flo to Two Plane Rides, the focus becomes their relationship and what it says about the two of them, both together and as individuals.

The relationship between Hannah and Adam manages to teeter into a crisis without exploding into juvenile drama or anything too haphazard, it isn’t suddenly thrown at the wall like Jessa’s rehab/recovery/relapse story, it’s allowed to go to interesting places both new and old, and it’s the old ones that are the most interesting.

It’s near the end of season three, most specifically during ‘Role-Play’ when Hannah and Adam are forced to confront their relationship and particularly what it means to them as individuals; their compatibility and stability is questioned in an inspired way, during the sexual role play that gives the episode it’s name. The aforementioned sexual frankness that seemed to come as a necessary discussion point during the early years of Girls is once again making an appearance here, but when the show looks at sex in the same disassociated, angry way that it did in season one, it’s critical about it now. One of the first times we see Adam in season one – in either ‘Pilot’ or ‘Vagina Panic,’ I think it’s the latter – he’s having sex with Hannah and decides to proclaim he found her “on the street” and that she was “a junkie.” She catches on soon enough, but in the third season, when she’s worried that their relationship is getting stale, largely due to the time Adam is spending working on Major Barbara, she initiates a role-playing situation and, to understate it slightly, it goes awry. Borrowing a blonde wig and Marnie’s apartment, Hannah puts on the façade of a married woman who wants to be rather violently taken by Adam. Once Adam is convinced, it seems to be going well enough and there does seem to be a sort of spark that Hannah feared was missing, bur once they make it to Marnie’s apartment, things take a decidedly more sombre, especially when Hannah changes their sexual dynamic on the fly, which doesn’t sit well with Adam. It’s Adam who ends the tryst, coming clean about the root of their more aggressive sexual past, saying that “fucking is what stopped [him] from drinking,” and that he doesn’t want to be distant from her when they have sex, he wants to be “there” with her.

This tension between what the two of them want individually from their relationship ripples throughout their scenes in the rest of the season, particularly in ‘I Saw You’ when Adam moves out to focus on rehearsals for the play. Hannah, who by now could probably be called a world renowned neurotic, panics a lot and tries to hang on to Adam and their relationship as much as she can. However, where the sting of the truth is really felt, and when the show is perhaps at it’s most mature is during the finale, ‘Two Plane Rides,’ when Hannah gets into a grad school writing workshop in Ohio, something that could of course help her progress by leaps and bounds creatively, and she decides to go. Hannah’s narcissism is of course well known, but here we see her doing something that is good for her, something she’s doing for herself, not to spite others. It may be a little too soon to say, but it appears that Hannah, and some of the others in the motley crew that make up the cast of Girls are all grown up.

 

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Casting the Classics – The Changeling

The Changeling, or, to be more precise, a rather strange and post-modern production if it that I saw last autumn, was, as I mentioned in my first post in this feature, was the thing that sparked the idea of recasting classics texts.

Now, for those who don’t know, The Changeling is an old, Elizabethan revenge tragedy, although it also has within it a subplot, much more comic one about a madhouse and the idea of ‘performing’ madness. And, as interesting as that idea is, in this version of The Changeling, I’d likely remove the comic subplot and focus on the dramatic one, for the best escalation of dramatic tension and so on throughout the film.

And so, here are how I would cast the three principle characters in the dramatic storyline of The Changeling.

Patrick Wilson as Alsemero

Alsemero is very much a typical romantic lead, and something of a crux of sanity throughout the film, until it’s final moments where he, for want of better phrasing – snaps, and in his delivery of a passage on how, and this is my interpretation of the passage, on how living can overcome grief (perhaps best illustrated in the line “your only smiles have power to cause relief”) stands at odds with this message.

Wilson looks like he could be a romantic lead, and he can very much play the ‘normal’ one (just look at him compared to Roy or Harper in Angels in America) exceptionally well, and of course, we’ve all seen him at the end of his tether in Hard Candy. Watching Patrick Wilson slowly, and finally fall apart would be fascinating to watch.

Peter Dinklage as De Flores

Now, the thing with De Flores is that Beatrice is not meant to find him attractive. Which isn’t by any way a slight against Dinklage in terms of his appearance or his height, but considering the modern standards of what is considered attractive, Dinklage could work as casting (it’s tough to explain his casting here without it sounding exploitative, but it really isn’t. And here’s why)

Dinklage would be incredible in this role. De Flores is something of a wordsmith I suppose, not quite in the manipulative way that Tyrion Lannister (the role Dinklage is most known for playing in HBO’s Game of Thrones), but his language, his sickening and venomous tongue, conjuring images of “a woman dipped in blood”, and slowly seducing the increasingly frantic Beatrice. De Flores is also attracted to Beatrice in a masochistic way, he revels in her disgust at him, and watching Dinklage play a character that is perhaps, a little less sympathetic than he is The Station Agent and Game of Thrones (at least compared to most of the other characters, especially as the series progresses) would be very interesting.

 

And finally….

Carey Mulligan as Beatrice

Beatrice is of course the centre of The Changeling and perhaps the first tragic heroine (in a genre largely focused on men in power), who is eventually brought down by her lust, as puritanical as it sounds.

Now, Beatrice is a woman who is practically made of conflicting dualities. She is at once romantic and shy in her arranged married, something that comes into direct conflict with her verbal sadism aimed at De Flores as well as, eventually, her lust. Beatrice’s character development is very much based around becoming more haphazard after having De Flores kill the man she is betrothed to, and her more furious side comes to the centre, and Carey Mulligan, who we’ve all seen wearing her heart on her sleeve in Shame, would be able to show Beatrice unravel in spectacular fashion.

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