If you have not yet seen the miniseries Olive Kitteridge HBO, I recommend taking a look. The acting and the storyline line are amazing. It is the story of a woman who most people would describe as “cold, or even “nasty.” However, as we get to know Olive, we see that she is far more complex and fragile than she ever lets on.
Olive is a middle-school teacher in Maine who has no tolerance for misbehavior or stupidity on the part of her students or even adults. Despite her abrasive attitude, she actually cares deeply about the people around her. In one episode, she helps a former student through a tough time when he is contemplating suicide. She does not do it with a lot of kind flowery words, but by simply speaking to him in a very logical and direct manner.
As I watched the episodes, something about the personality of Olive Kitteridge seemed very familiar to me. Then I realized that she is exactly like a number of the older relatives in my life when I was growing up. You see, they had all grown up in rural New England, and felt that it was simply undignified to show your emotions.
Olive Kitteridge is perfectly played by Frances McDormand. She has mastered the Maine accent and attitude, without overdoing it. You always feel that Olive is a real person you could walk out the door and meet any minute.
Olive’s husband Henry is in most ways her opposite. He is warm and outgoing and people just immediately like him. This actually makes Olive’s life more difficult. She is very aware of her own inability to connect with people, and seeing Henry make friends effortlessly only points out her own flaws. Henry is played by Richard Jenkins who is wonderful in this role.
The interplay between Olive and Henry and their complicated New England love for each other is the central point of the story. At one point Henry asks Olive if she is going to leave him. Instead of some loving Hallmark Channel type of response, Olive replies, “You know, you can be so annoying sometimes.” That is about as close as Olive can get to expressing love verbally. Olive is a loving and caring person but she demonstrates it through actions rather than words.
Also in the show is Bill Murray, as one of the town’s residents. Over the years, Bill Murry has changed from the Saturday Night Live Comedian, to a seasoned character actor and it is wonderful to see his talents continue to grow. Like Olive, he is trying to cope with the injustices and indignities that happen to people as they approach old age.
So many series and movies only focus on young and beautiful stars. The series Olive Kitteridge shows that, if anything, the lives of people become more interesting and more complicated as they age.
We rate this miniseries 5 Stars *****