‘Olive Kitteridge’ I Smell An Emmy for Frances McDormand…If You’re Into That Kind of Thing

by Lisa Waugh

Frances McDormand. I have loved this actress in so many things and for so long, I feel like we’ve been married or at least seriously dating for over a decade.

I have loved her as Abby in Blood Simple. Dot in Raising Arizona. Marge Gunderson in Fargo. Elaine Miller in Almost Famous. Just about anything she’s ever shown up to do.

Frances McDormand as Olive Kitteridge nailed my heart to hers when she removed the baby’s breath from a flower arrangement.

That couple: Everyone hates her. Everyone loves him. But it's not that black and white.

That couple: Everyone hates her. Everyone loves him. But it’s not that black and white.

I hate baby’s breath and red roses and mylar balloons. I have no idea why. I cannot afford therapy. But any of those make my skin crawl and fill me with dread.

A combination of those three will send me to the garage where I will make a fort out of my hair and gnarled, broken Christmas tree lights. I’d rather kiss Twisty the Clown drapped with snakes and math tests than be in the same room with those evil things.

What I’m saying is…the HBO mini series Olive Kitteridge is fantastic. Because anyone who makes that little move to remove the baby’s breath deserves the Oscar of the world. Either I have McDormand or director Lisa Cholodenko to kiss. Or maybe screenwriters Elizabeth Strout and Jane Anderson.

I think Olive Kitteridge in general has made me a little gay. And I’m completely fine with that.

Every speck of Olive Kitteridge from the screenplay to the direction by Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) to the cast to the location – New England – to the delightful Corelle ware, make Olive Kitteridge an emotional, cathartic experience. But it’s a refreshing catharsis. No dry heaving involved. Then again, maybe I’m just working some stuff out.

The novel by Elizabeth Strout received the Pulitzer. I have not read it yet but if the series leaves this much humanity hanging out, it must be amazing. I’ll have to read it because I really want to know what makes Olive tick.

Reasons to watch Olive Kitteridge:

  • Every scene between Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under, The Cabin in the Woods, The Visitor)
  • Every scene with McDormand and Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur, Trainspotting)
  • McDormand and Bill Murray

    Director Lisa Cholodenko and McDormand

    Director Lisa Cholodenko and McDormand

Why hasn’t Bill been in a Coen Brother’s movie? You’d think her and husband Joel Coen would have crossed paths in New York. Have I taken too many drugs and just forgotten this happened? Because if I have, Google has too. No sign of Murray having been in a Coen Brothers film.


Here’s a thing for you youngs: Don’t be afraid of older people talking about stuff. You need a break from movies about tweens on the verge of the knowledge that their selfie is a meaningless gateway to the truth that we are meat sacks waiting to die.

I found Olive Kitteridge a lot of fun on the way to kind of falling apart by the last episode. I guess I find pondering deeply emotionally disturbing thoughts “fun.” Man, I really need to see a therapist.

I’m not saying that Kitteridge is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf heavy. No one is saying what’s on their mind all the time. No one is stuck in one room tearing each other apart verbally. It’s done mainly over dinner with zingers and mad dog side stares. A chipping away over, say, a daily sledgehammer. You know, like your parent’s marriage.

There’s a memorable scene where people hate/blurt their true feelings but only after being put under extreme circumstances. Here, characters have to be pushed to the brink to feel all the feelings. I felt like I was watching Brokeback Mountain at times, only with straight people and if it were a black comedy.

It’s hard to describe this kind of chemistry between actors. With McDormand and Jenkins, it’s sweet, heartbreaking and hilarious. There’s this pull and repulsion between these two characters. A longing. An uncomfortable silence. A resignation. Everyone loves Henry. Everyone fears Olive. And she doesn’t seem to care. Until she cares.

I cried while watching the last episode. Not like teared up. But actually had a little cry. As though I watched something being released and the relief that comes with knowing who we really are. A little Henry. A little Olive. Yeah, I definitely need to talk to a therapist.


Foreplay in the Kitteridge household.