Monday, June 30, 2014

ON TELEVISION – Review of Louie, Season 4 by Emily Nussbaum

“For me, the best “Louie”s have always been the most destabilizing, and one of my favorites is “Telling Jokes/Set-up,” in which Louie himself was raped, in a car, by Laurie (Melissa Leo). It raised the question: Why is this funny rather than horrifying? One answer is the sheer absurdity of it: while a woman might rape a man, she couldn’t do so in the way Laurie does, by scrambling up his head like a spider, then planting her vagina in his face. It was a vulnerable move, played as an attack. In contrast, the Louie-Pamela assault felt provocative specifically because it seemed so real, without the scaffolding of jokes and dreams. The show often plays with such deniability: Was the scene in which Louie rescues his pleading ex from a hurricane a fantasy? Or a “true” story? The Amia affair might feel like lost love until you sought out the translations of her dialogue online, in which she seems more put-upon: when Louie insists that she’s upset because she’s Catholic and feels guilty about sex, she shouts, “I want to be alone and I’m not even Catholic!” Scenes like this were a test of audience trust; if they created misunderstanding, so be it. But there’s a different kind of success, which comes of creating something so unsettling that it’s worth debating, defending, and changing your mind about. While this wasn’t my favorite season of “Louie,” it did embody my favorite quality of the show: its comfort with leaving the door open, the work unfinished.”

 The New Yorker, 7 July 2014

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