Will the marvelous Mrs. Maisel go Overboard? Movies and TV

THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL is the only Amazon Prime series I’ve had the urge to watch so far (I don’t count Man in the High Castle as I watched that for Now and Then We Time Travel). It was worth it, though it doesn’t give me the impulse to check out their other offerings.

Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a Jewish 1950s housewife who seems to have a perfect life: kids, loving parents, husband Joel (Michael Zegen) is the love of her life and a good provider. His fondness for doing amateur standup comedy gives them both an excuse to hang out at Greenwich Village clubs and feel cool. Then one night Joel confesses that he’s miserable because he’s not good enough to turn pro, and that he’s been sleeping with his secretary. A drunken Midge wanders into one of the clubs they frequent and lets loose with a hysterical, profanity-laced rant on stage. Susie (Alex Borstein), the club’s booker, sees potential. Before Midge knows it, she and Joel are living apart and she’s launched on a new career as a stand-up comic.

What makes the series work is a)Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialog is just as sharp as when she did Gilmore Girls; good actors (Tony Shalhoub as Midge’s professor father among them); lots of 1950s detail; and that stand-up comedy is portrayed as a skill Midge has to learn. There’s an annoying assumption in fiction that if you don’t have enough talent to be awesome from the start, you’re not good enough. Midge runs into this when she starts doing stand-up sober and some of her sets bomb. Susie patiently (okay, Susie’s a grouch, she’s never patient) explains that everyone bombs. The comics Midge sees on TV don’t bomb because they did all their bombing years ago; it’s part of the learning process, not proof you’re a failure (Joel didn’t get that either). That’s refreshing. I look forward to seeing how Midge does in S2 (not airing yet). “I walked in on Nichols and May screwing — even their screwing is hilarious.”

OVERBOARD (1987) is one of those movies people describe as “problematic,” meaning in this case it has its charms, but it’s also unintentionally creepy (initial reviews indicate Anna Faris’s new remake isn’t any better). Goldie Hawn plays a selfish, shallow wealthy woman who refuses to pay Kurt Russell for a carpentry job, claiming it was sub-par. When she gets amnesia, her husband (Ed Hermann) decides to leave her in the hospital so he can cat around; Russell claims her and tells her she’s his wife so that he can take out the money she owes him in cleaning and cooking. Inevitably they fall in love and when Hawn gets her memory back they become a couple for real (as happened in real life during the film).

The film’s charms are the leads, both of whom are appealing and likeable actors; Hawn does really well playing horrified at the life she’s now living. I have friends who love the film for them. But the core of the comedy is Russell taking advantage of Hawn, a helpless amnesiac, and it’s kind of creepy, particularly as he doesn’t get even a little comeuppance for it. The classism also annoyed me: Russell and his buddies make the characters in My Name Is Earl look like high society.

And unfortunately the script isn’t as good as the leads. Most of the jokes and slapstick didn’t work for me at all. Despite the creepy factor, that’s probably more of a reason for not being enchanted by the film. With Katherine Helmond as Hawn’s mother; and Roddy McDowell as a butler who I wish the film had used more.   “No, they died — they never found each other and they drowned.”

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