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Enlightened: Meditate Elsewhere

by Rachel Stein October 11, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Enlightened</i>: Meditate Elsewhere

In Mike White's new half-hour indie movie-esque Enlightened, Laura Dern stars as Amy Jellicoe, a former corporate woman who has a traumatic breakdown at work, and is now trying to piece her life together after a stint in rehab. The premise had me intrigued and gave me hopes that this struggling lady could fill the void left by the cancellation of United States of Tara. But after being disappointed by the pilot and trying again with the next two episodes, I'm closing the book on this one and moving on to more calming places myself. I think Zen-seeking Amy would want that for me. Or maybe she'd flip me off. Frankly, I don't really care.

Look, I'm all for darkness and imperfection in characters, but after an hour and a half with this woman, I don't feel the slightest bit invested in her. If anything, I was rooting for Laura Dern to do something interesting with Amy, but that just never happened. I like the angle of seeing a person struggling with recovery when no one else is rooting for them -- and maybe others out there will be able to connect with Amy (I'd be interested to hear if you do) -- but I just found her too selfish and privileged at her core to really have my fingers crossed that she'd come back on top. (This was something that Toni Collette was able to do with United States of Tara before the show's writing caught up to her acting. Sure Tara was ruining everyone's lives, but you understood why people loved her in the first place.)

Though I was mostly bored by the premiere, I'll give Enlightened credit for not being entirely predictable and I even chuckled a few times during the pilot. I kept expecting her to snap out of her newly found serenity, and appreciated that she didn't. I'm not sure that the alternative -- introducing disgruntled character after disgruntled character (played by the equally uninspired Luke Wilson, Dern's real-life mom Diane Ladd and Charles Esten, to name a few), all of whom are sick of Amy for different and valid reasons -- was a great solution, however. A few redeeming characteristics would have done the trick. At one point, when I realized that Amy and I were just not going to click, I found myself daydreaming that her life would continue to suck, and I started to wish that Enlightened would be the realized version of Louis C.K.'s movie idea in Louie where the lead's life is awful and never gets better and ends on her just being severely depressed... then again, there's about a hundred indie movies out like that right now, so I guess I should just watch one of them. I hear Terri is pretty miserable.

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