A four-part mini-series, “Olive Kitteridge,” an adaptation of the book by the same name written by Elizabeth Strout has been airing on HBO this week. From the first time we viewed it on Sunday and Monday nights (2 hours each,) we have since learned that although the movie plot is situated in a small town in Maine (Harpswell) it was actually filmed in Massachusetts locations that we are familiar with: Rockport, Gloucester, Ipswich, Essex among others. With that knowledge, it has been even more engaging to revisit this masterpiece starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins on HBO this week.
McDormand has received wide acclaim for her portrayal in the film while curiously, there has been almost no mention of the other actors, especially Jenkins, who contribute masterful characterizations. Notable among them to me are Zoe Kazan as the character Denise and some of the other cameo roles–the singer at the piano and the suicidal former student who rescues the hapless woman who falls into the sea while picking lilies to cheer herself up.
“Olive Kitteridge” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 2008. This mini-series is authentic to the book and is a refreshing respite from the tedious formulaic shows that keep popping up on television. Some people dislike the character but everyone knows someone just like her. We can even see parts of ourselves mirrored in her character. HBO will be airing “Olive Kittredge” on November 9, 13 and 21. I have been re-reading the book this week and wrote a review of it on Amazon.com yesterday:
“Olive Kitteridge” Is About Life Everywhere”
November 6, 2014
Why do people read books? as escapism from one’s life? to be inspired by what one learns by reading to live a better life? Olive Kitteridge is a book about a woman who is true to herself, despite her family’s past, despite her own blunt personality and despite being married to a man she is not happy with although she knows he loves her despite herself.There are thirteen stories in which the character, Olive Kitteridge, appears. They are not all about her. But in each one, a facet of who she is is revealed. The book spans over twenty-five years so that the reader can see what happens to the awkward youth in junior school who grow up to get married, divorced and to think about life’s meaning themselves. Olive is not easy on those she loves and they hardly feel the commitment and loyalty she has towards them because of the manner in which she snaps at or criticizes them. She is quick to retort and slow to apologize (only once in their marriage.) You might not like her but all of us knows someone like her. Moreover, many of us are like parts of her. The richness and depth of this character and the sublime ways by which her truest, deepest feelings are revealed make me appreciate how complex people and life are in my own family and the town we live in. Although the stories are set in a small town in Maine, I can see people’s behavior so similar to them paralleled in the working-class town I live in here in Central Massachusetts. The poignancy is striking because there seem to be no places on earth where family weaknesses and unrequited yearning do not exist side by side. It’s no wonder that this book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.