Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, John Gallagher Jr. and Bill Murray
Premieres on HBO November 2nd, 2014

by Joanna Orland

Frances McDormand bought the rights to the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Olive Kitteridge just as the nomination for author Elizabeth Strout’s work was announced.  McDormand says her reasoning behind this purchase was that her son was 13 years old at the time and so she would have much more time on her hands 5 years down the line.  Now at age 57, Frances is determined to create interesting roles for herself in her career as she is tired of being asked the question of if she’s worried about not being offered significant roles as an aging actress.  And so begins the HBO saga Olive Kitteridge which had its premiere at Venice Film Festival but will air on the cable channel in November.

McDormand throws herself into her work and throws herself into the embodiment of title character Olive Kitteridge, proving to be a worthy recipient of this year’s Venice Film Festival Persol Tribute to Visionary Talent Award.  The novel is a collection of 13 short stories which create a portrait of a small New England town.  The HBO series uses this model as inspiration and creates 4 hour-long episodes spanning across 25 years, all focusing on the characters of this town, of which Olive herself is a citizen.

Olive is at the heart of every story.  The episodes examine the impact she’s had on various lives and what they have had on her.  She remains ever-stoic, harsh, cynical and a bit of a curmudgeon throughout.  Her relationship with her husband Henry is the heart and soul of this drama as it evolves over the years.  With Olive the perpetual cynic and Henry the romantic, perhaps they were never the best match, but as with any good and long-lasting marriage, they compliment each other and find their way through their ups and downs.

This is a very human story with very human performances.  Richard Jenkins in particular is naturalistic as Henry, and the vast supporting cast which includes the likes of Bill Murray colour the New England town with further character depths.  Depression, suicide, parental relationships and loneliness plague the characters, uniting them, driving them apart, all in all making them more human and empathetic to the audience who remained completely engaged for the 4 hour filmic experience of Olive Kitteridge.

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