Part of what makes Netflix (and services like Hulu) so awesome is that whenever you see a series, no matter when it was actually released, it’s new to you.
Having recently watched Keir Gilchrist in Dark Summer I was impressed enough with his performance to seek out more of his work, so when I learned that he also starred in Showtime’s United States of Tara I decided to give it a watch.
And it’s a surprisingly entertaining show–though that may have a little to with me binging on it.
And the first thing that came to mind is that United States of Tara initially feels like a Weeds clone (which aired on HBO), down to the opening and theme song, while different, plays visually and aurally similar to Little Boxes.
The similarities even extend to the family unit, though break down pretty quickly when you take into account that the cast is a bit stronger in Tara.
The series revolves around Tara Greyson (Toni Colette) who due to a traumatic incident in her past (which the series cleverly hints at, but never reveals, at least in the second season) who’s personality splinters into six or seven distinct individuals.
She fractures whenever she’s under stress, responding with the personality best suited to cope with the situation. It’s a pretty clever plot device (and reminds me somewhat of Dial H For Hero) and makes for some interesting drama though it’s mildly disappointing that apparently no one has found a way to bring her out of her fugues. As I implied earlier, the show shines best in the acting department.
Keri Gilchrist acquits himself admirably as Tara’s son, Marshall. He’s struggling with his sexuality, and reminded me vaguely of Bud Cort in Harold And Maude, replacing a morbid fascination with teenage angst.
John Corbett (Max Greyson) is good as well, but way too understanding of all the chaos that rages around him (to be fair, which begins to change a bit in Season Two). What the series never makes quite clear is why he continues to stick around because I can get behind that he loves his wife and family, but to live with a person that literally changes to someone else on a regular basis must be pretty draining.
It’s not that Corbett doesn’t pull off the role–he does–though it’s more that people leave their families for a heck of a lot less.
Though for me the greatest surprise of the series is Brie Larson (Kate Greyson) who’s HILARIOUS! She has these little facial movements that tend to make almost everything that she says feel real, though it may have a bit to do with the show being created by Diablo Cody, who’s known for her writing.
Patton Oswald is Neil, Max’s best friend and he’s pretty good too.
A small caveat: As I watch the series–I’m on the twelth episode of the second season–and it’s been made clear that Tara’s transitions are caused by stress (particularly issues that she’s unable or reluctant to face), yet no one in the entire time that these things have been happening have come close to finding a way of reaching her. It feels a bit unreal to me that they couldn’t have, at least once, stumbled once upon a way of bringing her out of it.
The United States Of Tara is on Netflix, though don’t tell Buck because he’s the mean one.