The HBO limited series is a stellar showcase for star Kathryn Hahn. But you already knew that.
It is an understatement that Kathryn Hahn is one of the best actresses working today. She nimbly jumps around from comedy and drama so easily that she is never in danger of being pigeonholed or pinned down. Her performance as Rabbi Raquel on Amazon’s Transparent is a good example of how she can transcend genre and truthfully amplify her emotions. It is HBO’s Mrs. Fletcher, however, that we might be talking about for months to come.
Based on Tom Perrotta’s novel, Mrs. Fletcher features Hahn’s Eve Fletcher as taken for granted–or blatantly ignored–by the men in her life. Her ex-husband has a new family and is busy taking care of his younger, autistic son, and their son, Brendan (played by Jackson White), has just left for college. Working as the Executive Director of a senior center, Eve doesn’t spend a lot of time with people her own age, but she is very good at her job.
The day that Brendan leaves for college, she overhears her son having sex and speaking in a misogynistic way. Eve tries to talk with her son about it, but Brendan has no interest in being raised by a single mother. They don’t know how to interact with each other, especially when it comes to those “important” moments.
As Eve tries to adjust to living her life alone, she becomes interested in two very different things. She joins a small writing class that encourages its students to write about their emotions and the turning points in their lives, but she also discovers that she’s interested in online MILF porn. She’s drawn in by the confessionals of middle-aged women talking about their fantasies and their desires, and Eve imagines herself in those phony porn-y scenarios when she’s floating through her every day life (you won’t look at a grocery store sample counter the same way again).
The focus is on Hahn’s Eve Fletcher, but the limited series doesn’t ignore Brendan’s journey. Brendan assumes that college will be an extension of high school glory, but he flounders almost immediately. He’s a charismatic, charming asshole, and White can easily pull off that hunky confidence. Brendan Fletcher assumes that he will always be the center of adoration because of his given status of being a good-looking, white guy who hasn’t had to try very hard, but the series doesn’t condemn him as much as you would think. It draws a parallel between Eve and Brendan because Eve assumes that she almost doesn’t deserve to be looked at in a certain way and Brendan is shocked when he has to work for anything. The light shifts from Brendan to Eve without either of them realizing it.
The ensemble is quietly solid. Owen Teague’s Julian aches for Eve’s attention as Brendan’s former classmate and Eve’s writing class attendee, and Jasmine Cephas Jones has presence as a object of Brendan’s affection. Other than Hahn, Jen Richards is the other standout. As Margo, Richards is the teacher of Eve’s writing class, and we see her looking for a successful relationship as a trans woman. The conversations between Eve and Margo are some of my favorite of the series, and I always wanted more of them together.
Mrs. Fletcher succeeds because it’s a coming of age tale but it follows someone that you care about. This could be your mom. Eve doesn’t know what she wants yet, but that hunger for knowledge and freedom is so engrossing. Even if she’s not looking for something concrete, seeing a character so casually open to experiences is something we rarely see portrayed so earnestly. At the center we have Hahn’s glorious performance. She embraces Eve’s insecurities and messiness without vanity and enhances Perrotta’s original creation.
Mrs. Fletcher debuts on October 27th on HBO.