Archive for January 26th, 2009

26th January
2009
written by Steph
Will the real Tara please stand up?

Will the real Tara please stand up?

Showtime has just started airing a new show starring Toni Colette called The United States of Tara.  Penned by Diablo Cody, the scribe behind last year's indie hit Juno, the show revolves around a woman named Tara, who has multiple personality disorder, and examines the way it wreaks havoc on the family dynamic.  Tara is (seemingly) happily married, and has two children, both teenagers.  In the first episode, two stressful incidents involving her teenage daughter cause her to transition into two of her “alters”: one a 15-year-old girl named T, and the other a redneck, beer-guzzling man named Buck.  The ads for the show suggest there is at least one other alternate personality hiding in there, one who looks like she might be more at home on AMC’s Mad Men. Netflix is allowing subscribers to watch the first episode through their “Watch It Now” program (the pilot is also available to all individuals with an American IP address on the Showtime website directly... also at the show's page on IMDB, though I'm not sure what the restrictions are on that... see all the ways I'm trying to hook you up?), and I’d highly recommend you do.  I was really impressed with the acting (especially Collette… it’s quite amazing how authentically she embodies each of the wildly disparate personalities, which I think is kind of crucial for the show to work.  She is over the top, but not campy, and it's all very authentic.  You need to believe that Tara is legitimately inhabiting her alters (or rather, that they’re inhabiting her), and not that she’s simply acting and that “Tara” is ultimately aware and in control.), and it looks like it’s setting itself up for some interesting stories and dynamics.  I thought the show took an interesting route with Tara’s children, as I didn’t expect them to be so accepting and understanding of her problem (even if they have ostensibly been exposed to it since birth), and her husband (played by John Corbett) is also incredibly supportive of his wife.  Juxtapose this with her sister, who thinks it’s all an act.  I’ll be interested to see how much the show focuses on Tara, versus fleshing out and developing additional storylines as well as making sure all of the characters are fully nuanced.  Also, I’m still unclear as to whether the show ants to set itself up as a drama or more of a comedy (it’s only a half hour in length, which tends to bias one towards a comedy billing, but it’s certainly not sitcom-y in nature).  Whatever the case, I’m willing to give it time to further develop (since you don’t necessarily expect answers to all of these things in a pilot), because the pilot was remarkably good.  I generally find that pilots tend to be the weakest episode for any show, as they by necessity have to be very expositional and can feel rushed.  That being said, if the pilot for The United States of Tara is anything to go on, it’s highly suggestive that this will be a good show and one worth watching.  Also, who doesn't love Toni Collette? The United Sates of Tara airs Sundays at 10 pm ET/PT on Showtime.
26th January
2009
written by Steph

Sigh.  My first book read for this year’s Tournament of Books, was fairly atrocious, so despite the rocky start, I was at least optimistic that the next book would have to be better.  It’s the law of averages!  So I picked up Fae Myenne Ng’s Steer Toward Rock, and dove in hoping I was going to land in a somewhat deeper pool. Steer Toward Rock is largely about a Chinese man name Jack Moon Szeto who, during his youth, is sold into another family so that they can have a son.  When he is older, he is sent to San Francisco so that he can work off his debt to his non-blood father, and also act as a decoy husband for the second wife said father wants to also bring into America (hoping to get a true blood son out of her).  This is around the time of the Chinese Confession Program, when the INS were trying to weed out individuals who had lied to bring other Chinese immigrants into the country, and when Chinese immigrants were treated extremely poorly.  The novel examines the trials and tribulation of Jack, primarily focusing on his relationships with three pivotal women in his life: Joice, his first love; Ilin, his fake wife; and Veda, his daughter by Joice.  It examines what an individual is willing to undergo for love, as well as the role of family (both in terms of one that is formed versus one that we are tied to through blood), and of course the immigration experience and the struggles to habituate as well as the struggle for later generations to understand their heritage.  Through this exploration, Steer Toward Rock also addresses the issue of self-identity. (more…)