Friday, February 17, 2017

HBO TV Review: Divorce (2016)

Divorce (2016) - Created by Sharon Horgan; Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon, Talia Balsam, Tracy Letts, Jemaine Clement, Robert Forster.

By Kenny Howell

Divorce was marketed very heavily, and for good reason, as the return of Sarah Jessica Parker to HBO.

But I can't say that Divorce, the series created and written by Sharon Horgan, belongs to Parker. It belongs to the performance of Thomas Haden Church (Killer Joe), who, yes, is playing the same kind of dolt that he plays in most things, he just does it so incredibly well in this.

That's not to take away from Parker. Some people criticized her performance in this show as being in a tonally different one than Church, but I think that is what makes it work. If she isn't playing this fairly straight (though she does start to lose it by the end of the season) then Church's unhinged take doesn't work as well.

Parker and Church play a married couple who decide in episode 1 that they want a divorce. Their friend Diane, played by Molly Shannon gets super drunk and accidentally almost shoots her husband when they get in an argument. That causes him to have a heart attack, and it makes Parker's Frances realize that she can't stand being married another minute to Church's Robert. They have been going through the motions for a long time, and his idiotic schemes and business ventures have been driving her crazy.

Over the season, the two try to play nice and make it easy, but of course lose out to anger and greed. It is mostly played for laughs, but can be a bit depressing at times because they are just battling. The show also tries to give equal weight in fault to Frances and Robert, because Frances is far from a perfect person, though Robert does seem more at fault just because he is an idiot. All together, it's a tough balance to pull off for Horgan, who also co-created the much better series Catastrophe with Rob Delaney. Divorce does work because Church and Parker are old professionals and know how to carry a scene. But it can be a bit wearing at times seeming them fighting and bickering constantly. Still Church's performance and the half hour run time make it easier going down, and I was left liking it quite a bit more than I anticipated.

The entire first season of Divorce is now streaming on HBO Go or HBO Now.

Rating: ***

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