The son of a divorced mother goes to the University and discovers, in somewhat of a panic, that he suddenly has free time on his hands for the first time in many years and has no idea how to fill it. And the kid who was the high school alpha male discovers that the tactics he used to dominate both his male and female peers no longer work in this new environment.
One upward and one downward movement is basically what we are privy to in Mrs. Fletcher, the series from Tom Perrotta (The Leftovers) based on his novel of the same name and available on HBO.
A miniseries – seven episodes – that deals with the empty nest syndrome and as such, might have been a more difficult subject matter to digest. That is, were it not for Perrotta’s adeptness at finding the perfect tone on paper and successfully transferring this to the screen. Not surprisingly, the novelist and showrunner was a disciple of Tobias Wolff, an author from whom years later he would take his “comic writing for serious morals” approach.
And this is a perfectly valid definition for a series that comes packaged as a fine comedy, but has a powerful discourse concerning sexual complexes and toxic masculinity, which work better in the emotional scenes; when she takes a dip alone in an empty swimming pool, than when she’s exchanging witty replicas. That the (new) sexual awakening of this mom is channeled through porn websites also holds for an interesting discussion concerning loneliness, screen-time and the porn term, MILFs.
Kathryn Hahn’s magnetic presence and her ability to embody the conflicts of ordinary people is the focal point for Mrs. Fletcher. Some actors play offensively, deploying a wealth of expressive resources like Jack Nicholson, Joaquin Phoenix, Meryl Streep, and there are others whose nature is to approach their work with greater subtlety and a personal aura difficult to objectify – Casey Affleck, Ryan Gosling, Audrey Hepburn. Hahn unequivocally belongs to the latter group. Jackson White holds his own playing the son, bearing in mind that his character doesn’t exactly invite empathy. Alas, and herein lies the main problem with the series, the disproportion between how interesting the mother’s story is compared with that of her son, may cause viewers to be tempted to commit the unholiest of all new unholiness and fast forward past some of the action.
With ‘Mrs. Fletcher ‘, HBO confirms the tendency of the platforms to make generational dramedies for mature audiences. From Amazon Prime’s I Love Dick, which incidentally starred Hahn, to Togetherness.