I was really really looking forward to HBO’s Girls by wunderkind Lena Dunham. I loved her movie Tiny Furniture and every scene they showed of Girls made it that much more appealing.
So I was bound to be disappointed, no?
The first 2 episodes were almost there — funny, awkward, kinda sad…but not all there. It’s not that the acting isn’t good, all four of the leads are entertaining. Dunham writes well for her contemporaries, even those who don’t have vaginas. But there was just something missing. A lack of drama, perhaps? It felt that there wasn’t as much at stake.
Episodes 3 was much improved. I guess the simplest thing is to say that something finally happened, if want to call VD ‘something happening’. And episode 4 really set things in motion when Hanna’s (Dunham) diary is discovered and its dirty little secrets come pouring out.
If the rest of the season is more like episodes 3 and 4, then the season should end up much better than it started.
But there is something else has kept me coming back. Every episode, even the ones that have not been that successful have moments of unblinking truth. A scene where you forget these are actors on a screen. In episode 1, Hanna explains to her non-boyfriend sexual partner (aka guy she sleeps with) why she got her tattoos. She talks about how she put on weight and needed to take control of her body, somehow. It’s so open and naked, you believe it has to be true. She’s not saying it for sympathy, but it’s something she’s absorbed into her life story and has become matter of fact.
In episode 2 Hanna is at a job interview that is going swimmingly. Comedian Mike Birbiglia is interviewing her and they’re clicking. He seems ok with her lack of experience and she is encouraged by their easy banter. They chat about Brooklyn and bars and in one instant, Hanna forgets that this is not a date, not some casual encounter. This is a job interview and she cracks one rape joke too many. It’s so easy to step over that line, to forget about the line and just rams through it. Thankfully this has never happened to me during a job interview, but oh so many conversations have taken a terrible awkward turn that becomes inescapable…
Episode 3 had two moments that struck me – one more plausible than the other. Marnie, Allison Williams, is so bored with her puppy dog of a boyfriend that she’s almost ready to run away with Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone as artist Booth Jonathan. Almost. Instead she is too scared to really leave but finds a way to, ahem, release the tension she’d been feeling.
Later in the episode, Hanna confront her ex-bf, the only guy she slept with in college. Surprising no one once he announces that he’s now a “dance curator”, this ex is gay gay gay. Their ensuing conversation is funny and sad, and you can just see the moment when it becomes bitter and bitchy. She’s so hurt and so obviously trying to piece together the shattered internal images of her past, and he can help himself. It’s the sort of conversation everyone has had with an ex, gay or not. It always ends badly.
But the moment that made me decide to stick with this show for the rest of the season regardless came in this past week’s episode. Hanna’s non-bf, Adam, sends her a picture of his penis wrapped in some sort of fur, quickly followed by a text saying that photo wasn’t for her. Even though she responds in kind, after hearing some reality from her new co-workers, she goes to Adam’s house to break up with him.
When he asks her what she wants, after first she can’t really define it: she says she doesn’t want a boy friend, but “I want someone who wants to hang out all the time, and thinks I’m the best person in the world, and who wants to have sex with only me.”But that becomes a much more heartbreaking scene as she breaks down and tells him that as much as she likes him, she can’t keep seeing him. “I really care about you and I don’t want to anymore because it feels too shitty.”
This speech leads to Adam reaching for Hanna, and her muttered “Oh god” just slayed me. It’s that point where you know you’re doing something that you know you are going to regret, giving in to something you wish so hard you could avoid, but you just have to do it… Who hasn’t had that simultaneous feeling of regret and abandon?
Yes, none of these things are fun to relive, but they aren’t Carrie buying $400 shoes and making some off the cuff quip about men and sex and lunch boxes. It’s that reality, the dialog that can feel like it’s a memory rather than something on screen, that makes me really interested to see what else is coming down the pike and allows me to forgive the times the show seems to meander.
Remember, episode 1 is free online. Worth watching, especially because it just gets better from here.