Review: Don't Dismiss HBO's 'Mrs. Fletcher' Until You Know What It's About
A couple of years ago, I picked up and read Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher only because it was a Tom Perrotta book, and I read everything he writes. The premise — about a forty-six-year-old divorcee struggling to adjust to her empty nest after her only child has just left for college — did not sound particularly appealing, and the title of the book, like the title of the series, suggests a stuffy, old-lady British show, the kind that my wife spends most of her viewing time watching on Acorn.
Mrs. Fletcher is not that. Mrs. Fletcher is about a wallflower-type, played by Kathryn Hahn, who finds that she has a lot of time on her hands after her son leaves for college, so she starts to fill that time with online porn. But it’s not really that kind of show, either. She doesn’t turn into an online porn addict or break into the business and become the Walter White of amateur porn (if that’s what you want, there’s Deuce).
The online porn is a gateway to an awakening of sorts. Sexual yes, but also emotional. It liberates her. She finds her confidence, and her inner sexuality, and all of these things about herself that she kept repressed through her failed marriage and as a woman largely defined by her motherhood. She’s 46, she’s alone, and she looks like Kathryn Hahn, so she still has a lot of life left to live, and Mrs. Fletcher is about that realization. It’s funny. It’s smart. It’s thoughtful.
Eve Fletcher’s awakening is contrasted, however, with the hard dose of reality that hits her son Brendan (Jackson White) smack in the face when he arrives to college. Brendan is a douche. He’s used to having his doting mother take care of him and taking advantage of that. He’s a bully. He treats women like shit. He quickly realizes when he gets to college that the stuff he got away with in high school isn’t going to fly in this environment. He begins to suffer a huge fall from high-school grace, and it’s not apparent that he’ll be able to pull out of the tailspin.
The series thus juxtaposes Brendan’s fall with his mother’s liberation, which also includes a friendship with a former classmate of Brendan’s, a thoughtful, sensitive guy named Julian (Owen Teague) that her son used to bully. She’s also got a best friend, played by Casey Wilson, who provides plenty of wine, a sounding board, and emotional support.
I’ve only seen the pilot, so far, but it hews closely to the novel, a sort of small, intimate, marvelously written study of one of my favorite fictional characters in recent memory. Perrotta created the series, but he has a tremendous arsenal of female directors to help navigate his story through the seven-episode season (it’s billed as a “limited series,” but then again, so was Perrotta’s The Leftovers). Nicole Holofcener is an exec producer and directs the pilot; Carrie Brownstein and Gillian Robespierre direct two episodes, as does Tony Award nominee Liesl Tommy, who also happens to be the sister of our own TK (full disclosure).
All I’m saying is: Don’t dismiss because you think you know what it’s about. However, now that you know, feel free to do so, although you’d be missing out on a terrific dramedy and three-and-a-half wonderful hours with one of the best actresses around in Kathryn Hahn.
Header Image Source: HBO