Friday, February 2, 2018

Grace and Frankie—why I really like this show

I didn’t start watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix until recently. I have definitely noticed it and even wondered about it, since it’s gotten mostly good reviews from the critics. But a few weeks ago, I sat down and watched the first episode, and from then on I was hooked. For starters, it is truly an adult comedy series, as in not for children, and I welcome that in a youth-focused culture and media. I like shows with younger people and I watch a lot of them, so that’s not a problem. But there has been a real lack of intelligently-written shows for older adults. One of the creators/writers is Marta Kaufman, who was one of the two writers on Friends, a show that I’ve also been re-watching recently. The wonderful timing and delivery of lines on Friends made it the excellent show it was, in addition to excellent acting. The acting on Grace and Frankie is also top-notch; Jane Fonda (Grace), Lily Tomlin (Frankie), Martin Sheen (Robert) and Sam Waterston (Sol) are simply wonderful. After about five episodes in, it felt like they lived in my neighborhood and that I was running into them every day. The writing is intelligent and natural. This is how adults talk and interact, among themselves and with their grown children who have their own lives and problems. There is cursing, yelling, love and sex and everything in between. There is also pot smoking and dabbling in alternative highs courtesy of Frankie who is an aging hippie, artist, and life lover. I’m enjoying watching her interact with Grace who is her polar opposite—a private and reserved former career woman (now retired), who worries about getting older and about lack of order. It’s entirely plausible that this is how women who have been married for forty years might react to finding out that their husbands (law firm partners for many years) are gay and want to marry each other. So divorces ensue, and all parties try their best to be civilized about the upheaval in all their lives. What’s nice about the show is that there are no pat answers—love and life are messy. Getting older is difficult. Wanting to live out your life with someone you love may hurt someone else you love or thought you would love for the rest of your life. The adults apologize a lot for hurting each other; Sam Waterston’s character Sol seems especially conflicted by his need to change his life. He loves Robert but doesn’t want to hurt his ex-wife Frankie. And yet he does, time and again. Frankie is learning how to establish boundaries for how to deal with Sol going forward. Grace seems to have accepted that she and Robert were never really that close and she acknowledges her part in that; their relationship seemed to be cold and rote, whereas Sol and Frankie’s relationship seemed to be warm and vibrant. What’s interesting is that you don’t end up rooting for any one character. I like them all; each of them has their quirks, annoying habits, ways of talking, and ways of interacting, that are by turns funny, touching and memorable. I’ve already finished season 1 and am well into season 2. It’s a welcome change from all of the murder and crime series that leave you with very little other than strangely-concocted plots, sexually-perverted criminals, and weak conclusions--in other words, nothing memorable. Grace and Frankie is a show I will remember down the road. 

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