Its hard to feel much sympathy for Sarah Jessica Parkers Frances but there is a power in this truthful depiction of midlife discontent
Shes done young desperate sordid singledom (the glorious Pulling); hooking up, marriage, parenthood (Catastrophe); Divorce is the next logical step for Sharon Horgan. As a subject for comedy I mean, not life choice. No part this time, she just gave birth to it. And its American (HBO, Sky Atlantic here).
Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Robert (Thomas Haden Church) have reached a bitter impasse in their marriage. The kids are adolescent and uncommunicative, the big suburban house in Westchester County echoes with resentment. Bad sex and the citys a way away.
Frances does have an escape an antipodean academic lover named Julian (Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement) who makes his own granola, which she seems to think is a good thing. But when she offers herself up as a whole serving oats, nuts, honey, everything, there and available every morning, as opposed tojust an occasional snack hes lost his appetite. Asshole.
First a party, the 50th birthday of friend Diane whose own marriage to Nick has gone beyond impasse and beyond hope. Shes drunk; hes mean; their beautiful modern glass-fronted house provides a perfect view into a relationship in its death throes. Almost literally: Diane pulls a gun, it goes off, narrowly missing Robert and triggering a heart attack in her husband. Triggering, in Robert, thoughts about his own mortality, and, in Frances, the realisation that shes not quite ready to give up: I want to save my life while I still care about it.
The party scene is very funny, in a hideous way. Im not sure the gun was necessary. This kind of brutally real comedy should be confident enough in its characters and in its language not to need a stunt like that which might risk tipping it towards farce. But then this isthe US; perhaps that is normal.
Otherwise Divorce wont have you lolling in the aisles. Its as bleak and dark and chilling as the New York (state) winter outside the windows. Nor am I feeling much warmth, or sympathy, for either lead SJPs Frances, especially. I can see what shes going through, without caring enough. Even her kids dont like her very much. That was the joy of Catastrophe: though it was a catastrophe, Horgan and Rob Delaney brought humanity, humour and even love to it and I loved them too. Here Im finding THCs Robert easier to identify with, but that may be about recognition one angry, simple, blundering, mediocre, middle-aged male to another
That is the power of Divorce: its truth. If youre round about the midlife stage yourself, or youve been in a relationship for a while, and its not quite how it was, and maybe you hate their effing guts, then this will all hit home to hurting point. Hey Sharon, cant wait for the next one. What will it be? Menopause? Followed by Fuddled, Incontinence andDeath, in that order.