Spoiler-Free Review: “House of Gucci” (2021) starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, & Jared Leto

A name to die for. -A tag line for the film

This is inspired by the family empire behind the Italian fashion house of Gucci. When Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately… murder. -Synopsis

While it’s based on factual events, the story told in House of Gucci has significant parallels to Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks: Verfall einer Familie (1901). Mann’s chronicle of the decline of a wealthy German merchant family over 4 generations also deals w/ themes of decadence, social class, family image, the search for happiness, destructive relationships and disappointing children, the conflict between art and business and capitalist society at large. The acting style of the ensemble was in part inspired by the Commedia dell’arte, an Italian comedic theatre style popular in the 16th, 17th and 18th century. This style goes for comedic effect through exaggeration and sharply-drawn character types, also sometimes using colorful costumes and masks.

Paolo: You picked a real firecracker.

Maurizio: She’s a handful.

Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Margot Robbie, and Natalie Portman were all considered for the role of Patrizia. Christian Bale was considered for the role of Maurizio. While Scott wanted Driver for Maurizio, there were some scheduling issues at first. Chris Evans was considered as a back-up, in case Driver couldn’t free up his schedule. Robert De Niro was originally announced as being in talks to play Rodolfo Gucci, but Jeremy Irons was cast instead. Huston- who plays lawyer/advisor Domenico De Sole- was born and raised in England, and naturally speaks w/ an English accent. On his Hollywood (paternal) side, he’s the nephew of Angelica and Danny Huston and grandson of John Huston. Monica Bellucci was considered to play Pina, but turned down the part. Salma Hayek took on Pina; she’s married to François-Henri Pinault (founder/CEO of French multi-national company- Kering- which owns Gucci as of 2021).

Paolo: Never confuse sh*t with chocolate. They may look the same, but the taste is very different. Trust me I know.

Yes, the above are real lines written by an (experienced) screenwriter- LOL! To put it bluntly, this movie is a hot mess! I wasn’t shocked to see this, as I’d read much about it (on social media) long before viewing it. No amount of realistic wigs, glam clothes, or fancy sets/beautiful locations can ever make up for lackluster writing and uneven acting. Comedian Wanda Sykes referred to it during the Oscars as “House of Random Accents.” Many viewers commented that they enjoyed the 1st act, which is focused on the budding romance of Maurizio (a law student) and Patrizia (a secretary at her father’s trucking biz). Some critics noted that Driver gets the “boring” role; his acting is naturalistic (unlike several others here). Lady Gaga said she worked long and hard on her role; she shows the (unabashed) ambition of Patrizia. Her famous line: “Father, Son, and House of Gucci” was improvised. Irons (using his British accent) is the intimidating/snobby Gucci patriarch, Rodolfo. Uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) is the one who helps the young couple when Maurizio’s father disowns him (temporarily). Pacino looks V tame when compared to onscreen son, Paolo (Jared Leto). I don’t know where Leto got his accent and those mannerisms, BUT wow- is he annoying! Many felt that Paolo was a stereotype of an Italian man.

Aldo: Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.

Music is a big part of this movie. Early in the film (1978), we see a big party w/ crowd dancing to Donna Summer’s On the Radio (which wasn’t released until 1980). Another song at this party- Bad Girls– wasn’t released until 1979. Patrizia is shown using a Sony Walkman cassette player (which didn’t come out until 1979). During the wedding, which in the timeline of movie happens before 1983, Faith by George Michael plays (but it wasn’t released until 1987). Some viewers wanted to hear the vows and see more of the actual wedding. In reality, Patrizia and Maurizio Gucci were married in 1972; they had 2 daughters- Alessandra (shown in the film) and Allegra (not shown).

[1] Adam Driver and Lady Gaga can leave with their reputations relatively unscathed, even if perhaps Gaga hones an accent that’s a bit more Transylvanian than Milanese. Al Pacino and Jared Leto though are in a different film, with broad comedic performances...

I could, perhaps, forgive their choices if the overall film hung together better, but alas it doesn’t. The story is glacial at some points, but at others either skips over or brushes through sections that are required to make the story make sense.

In lesser hands, this might be more forgivable, but this is Ridley Scott and we’ve come to expect more. This was, in no uncertain terms, a shambles.

[2] Ridley Scott’s filmography is hit and miss, brilliant at his best like with ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’ though some of his films, such as GI Jane and Robin Hood (Legend is underrated in my view), are not too great.

As far as Scott’s films go, it’s a middling effort. Neither one of his best or worst.

House of Gucci has a lot that is good in my view. Have very little to complain about when it comes to how it looks, apart from some editing being in need of a tightening in the final act. The Italian scenery and the costumes are truly stunning though and the camerawork is similarly sumptuous. Scott’s direction is uneven dramatically, but is very impressive on a technical level, especially in his use of multiple cameras (which must make it easy for actors to know where to look).

[3] For me, this is all about the accent. Everybody is speaking English but in an overt Italian accent. It’s distracting. […] Maybe this needs to be a limited series on a streaming service. The acting seems to be getting accolades. I don’t mind that. They’re doing good work. The accent is just not my preference. All in all, this is a functional biopic with interesting actors doing a specific choice.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Re-watching Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” (2019) starring Adam Driver & Scarlett Johansson

Marriage Story (the 10th feature film by Noah Baumbach) was given a theatrical release of 30 days. It was the 1st film to be distributed primarily by a streaming service (Netflix) to win an Academy Award in an acting category. Also, it’s the first streaming film to win a BAFTA and a Golden Globe in acting categories. The budget was less than $19M and it was shot over only 47 days. Marriage Story premiered at the Venice Film Festival. This film is part of the Criterion Collection; there is a behind-the-scenes (BTS) documentary included. As many critics/viewers have noted, this is a mix of genres: drama (domestic, legal); comedy (incl. the kitchen scene at grandma’s house); and musical. For inspiration, Baumbach looked to screwball comedies from the 1930s- 40s, such as Twentieth Century (1934) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). The close-ups were inspired by Scenes from a Marriage by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. One of the framed items seen at grandma’s house is The New Yorker mag article titled Scenes From A Marriage featuring Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson).

Nicole: I never really came alive for myself; I was only feeding his aliveness.

Writer/director Baumbach brought in 3 of his actors (“collaborators”) before he wrote the script for this film: Driver (a close friend), Johansson, and Laura Dern. He interviewed many individuals, from friends to those involved in the business of divorce. It was Driver’s idea for Charlie Barber to be a theatre director. Charlie lived in Indiana before moving to NYC; Driver grew up in that state. The toys Nicole and Henry (Azhy Robertson) play w/ during the opening montage are from the Star Wars franchise, a reference to Driver’s role as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in the sequels. Sheets w/ Guardians of the Galaxy characters can be seen in Henry’s bed in the NYC apt. That movie is from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as is Johansson’s character Black Widow. Early in her career, Nicole starred in a hit teen sex comedy called All Over the Girl; Baumbach’s ex-wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was one of the young stars of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Ted: Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.

Some viewers asked: “Who is the bad guy in this story?” Well, Charlie had a brief affair w/ his co-worker, Mary Anne (Brook Bloom), so he’s NOT blameless. Nicole describes Charlie as being selfish and wanting things his way, at home and in the theater. The true bad guys could be the divorce lawyers (aside from Bert, played by veteran actor Alan Alda). I esp. liked Driver and Alda’s scenes together; Bert also serves as an empathetic father-figure to Charlie (I noticed on this re-watch). Nora Fanshaw (Dern) is based loosely on celeb attorney Laura Wasser; she represented Dern, Johansson and Baumbach during their respective divorces. The mediation scenes were filmed in Wasser’s office building. Ted (Ray Liotta- who passed away recently) is a shark who fights w/ Nora in court.

Due to location availability, the LA scenes were filmed before the main cast moved to NYC. Charlie’s LA apt is an actual apt; the production rented it, along w/ the unit directly upstairs. No dialogue or moments of hesitation are improvised in this scene; everything was scripted. Driver ended up punching the wall 15 times (ouch); Baumbach famously likes to shoot many takes. At one point, Driver punched so hard that he almost punched through the wall behind the breakaway wall. Over 2 days, Driver and Johansson did 50 takes of the fight- wow! The juice box that Nicole sips on, then sets down before the fight remains on the floor until the final shot of the scene. Baumbach explained: “The juice box is [their son’s] presence in their lives… he’s not here… he’s really powerless in this situation.”

The world of the theater plays a big part in this story; Charlie was directing Nicole’s acting for several years. Nicole’s name recognition brought in much of the audience in the early years; during the separation, Charlie is awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant. The diverse group of actors in Charlie’s troupe serve as his chosen family. You may recognize a few of their faces: veteran theater actor Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Hamilton; guest star on S6 of Girls), and Mary Wiseman (Star Trek: Discovery). In an interview, Driver said that he and Baumbach discussed making a film version of Company (long before this film). Driver’s performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Being Alive from Company was recorded live and done in one take. Both Baumbach and Driver were fans of the 1970 Broadway musical. Nicole, her mom, and older sister sing You Could Drive a Person Crazy (another song from Company).

Charlie: [Reading Nicole’s letter to Henry] I fell in love with him two seconds after I saw him. And I’ll never stop loving him, even though it doesn’t make sense anymore.

I’ve seen Marriage Story 5x over the past 3 yrs; I don’t re-watch shows/movies much (unless it’s an Austen or Shakespeare adaptation or maybe holiday film). For me, the dialogue (writing) in a film is the most important element. Another element I admire is realism, or real-world themes. On a recent re-watch, I noticed that Baumbach also knows how to make the silence powerful. My fave moments are silent: Charlie sleeping side-by-side w/ Henry when the boy is worried; Charlie and Nicole pull the gate of her LA house shut; and Nicole tying Charlie’s shoe (the last scene; perhaps also a homage to The Way We Were).


[1] Overall, you see Johansson and Driver put on some amazing performances….so amazing that I’d be shocked if they aren’t at least Oscar-nominated for this film. Well done in every way…and one of the better movies of 2019.

[2] There is some humour in this movie, at times it is sad and raw.

[3] Marriage Story is a beautiful and heartbreaking film about the end of a marriage. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson have magnificent performances and chemistry and the direction of Noah Baumbach is top-notch. This film is not to be described by words but watched.

[4] The movie is brutally honest and feels brutally real. I don’t condone everything being said or done. By neither of the two main characters. But motivations are clear and the story is really well told. The drama unfolds and it does not seem to be made up, rather really slow burning and quite reasonable (well as reasonable as some of the things can be).

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” (2018) starring Adam Driver & Jonathan Pryce

Toby (Adam Driver- looking tan and toned), a cynical commercial director, is in Spain shooting an insurance commercial that has a take on Don Quixote. At dinner, a Gypsy peddler has a copy of his student film for sale, a B&W adaptation of Don Quixote. Toby is fascinated by the journey back in time and decides that, since he’s staying so close to where he’d filmed this student project, he’s going to go go back for a visit. The town feels depressing; the girl (who played Dulcinea) has left, and her father is angry at Toby for it. The old cobbler (played by veteran actor Jonathan Pryce) he’d hired to play the lead has gone mad- thinking himself to be Quixote! Through a series of accidents and bits of craziness, Toby finds himself as Sancho Panza, a role he takes up reluctantly. The supporting cast include: veteran character actor Stellan Skarsgard, former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, Spanish actor Jordi Molla, and a beautiful ingenue from Portugal- Joana Ribeiro.

Fantasy and reality begin to mix (which I learned is a common theme for director Terry Gilliam). He has also directed Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985- starring Pryce), The Fisher King (1991), 12 Monkeys (1995), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). I haven’t yet see any of these movies. Gilliam (raised in US, but later became a British citizen) may be best known as member of “Monty Python” along w/ John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman. I watched this movie (once- so far) b/c t was on the list of Driver’s work. Fans know that Driver chooses his projects based on the director and the script. I thought the acting was (mostly) well-done, though I was confused by the presence of some minor characters and the purposed of a few scenes. Critics/viewers either loved or hated it, from what I’ve read (so far). I’ll try to watch it again and see if I can figure out more- LOL! This isn’t a movie for a wide audience. I think some of you’d enjoy the music from the musical- Man of La Mancha.

The film is dedicated to the memory of John Hurt and Jean Rochefort. Gilliam had chosen both to play Don Quixote in past versions, and both died before the film was completed. After eight attempts since 1989, production finally wrapped in June 2017; it has been called the most cursed film in cinema history! Gilliam started working on the film in 1989, but was unable to secure funding until 1998, when it entered full pre-production with a budget of $32.1M (w/o American financing), w/ Rochefort as Quixote, Johnny Depp as Toby, and French actress Vanessa Paradis (Depp’s ex-wife) as the female lead. Shooting began in 2000 in Navarre (the Basque region of Spain), but a significant number of difficulties, such as floods destroying sets and equipment, Rochefort leaving due to illness, and problems obtaining insurance for the production led to a sudden suspension of the production, and then cancellation. The original production was the subject of the documentary Lost in La Mancha (2002).

If you’re going to play with Quixote you really got to play with Quixote. And those were windmills that came along. Those were giants, they killed us once but we’re going to come back. Everybody says ‘Oh, forget about it, put it in the past. Move on.’ No, I won’t because that all sounds so reasonable and I don’t think films should be reasonable. The business we’re in is about exciting people, stimulating people, doing things, changing them, outraging them — it’s not a reasonable business. Especially when you’re spending the gross national product of a country to make a silly movie — this is not reasonable.

-Gilliam, on finishing this movie

[1] This movie is weird and wonderful. Adam Driver is absolutely hilarious. The scenery is fantastic. It’s like a story within a story within a commercial within a movie. It’s creative and wacky and fun.

[2] A metaphor. An analogy. An intricate story that blends fantasy and real, history and present, fact and fiction. […] It is similar to films such as Holy Motors (2012), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), so if these ring a bell, please give this film a chance.

[3] As visual art, the film is superb. But as a story, it is confusing. With all its bizarre references self-reflexivity, the central story becomes a side plot. It was visually beautiful, well-acted, great costumes and music, but thoroughly disjointed and confusing for much of the time. It had me thinking “this movie wasn’t made for an audience.”

[4] I can’t shake the feeling that the movie wants to be much more that how it ultimately gets on the road. It’s treading water and not making any progress. Does the movie simply want to be funny or does it also want to depict a kind of self-discovering process? Maybe both. But here you can already see the main problem. The movie can’t decide what it wants and as a result can’t transport it to the viewer.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Girls” (HBO): Season 2

Season 2 of the controversial (yet unique/fascinating) show returned in JAN 2013. Lena Dunham would direct 4 eps and write 7 eps in this season. The show may NOT have always had a huge audience, BUT it was written about by many journos, pop culture critics, and haters. Zosia Mamet recalled (at The Hollywood Reporter comedy actresses roundtable in 2014) that “in S1, we were shooting in Tompkins Square Park, and nobody knew who were were. Then we go back there for S2- paparazzi everywhere! It’s not just taking pictures- they’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen in the storyline.”

You feel like you are doing something that spurs a conversation, whether it’s for good or for bad. This is the first time that this has ever happened to me. It’s an amazing thing. -Adam Driver (2013 interview, Flaunt Magazine)

E1: It’s About Time

Hannah throws a housewarming party with brand-new roommate- Elijah, but it’s hard to move on when she’s still playing nurse to Adam. Marnie gets bad news at work and a visit from her mom; Shoshanna avoids Ray at the party; and sun-kissed Jessa returns from her honeymoon.

The story takes place several weeks after the S1 finale. Hannah is seeing a young Black man, Sandy (Donald Glover- before he became famous), who she seems V excited about. As some of you may know, Dunham received a LOT of criticism for her show being “too white.” Hannah is helping Adam out (his right leg is in a cast); she does errands for him, though he wants her around a LOT more. She tells him that their relationship is over; he doesn’t take it easily. We meet Marnie’s mom, Evie (Rita Wilson- wife of Tom Hanks), for the 1st time. She’s worried b/c now Marnie isn’t w/ a bf, was let go from her gallery assistant job, and her appearance isn’t up to par (“you look 30”)- yikes! Evie had to raise Marnie on her own after her ex-husband left the family; she works/lives in New Jersey (and looks to be doing well).

E2: I Get Ideas

Hannah gets unsolicited musical attention from heartbroken Adam and displeasing opinions on her writing from Sandy. Elijah questions his sexuality; Marnie makes a career compromise when her curatorial dreams are crushed; Jessa revels in married life; Shoshanna and Ray make magic; and Elijah and Marnie harbor a secret.

This ep opens w/ Hannah and Elijah listening to songs by Adam; he is shirtless (of course) and playing a guitar. They BOTH look concerned as they hear this music, wondering IF Adam really is a “sociopath.” On my recent rewatch, I had to LOL at such a funny (yet awkward) situation. Sandy breaks up w/ Hannah after she makes some “ignorant” comments re: race; Dunham said that Glover contributed lines in this scene. Hannah spends some time w/ Jessa; they catch-up and play w/ puppies in the park. When she goes to a gallery for an interview, Marnie gets shot down by the owner, Patricia (Laurie Simmons- Dunham’s mother/a painter). Dunham joked that her mom “changed all her lines” and also “chose her own costumes.” Marnie (seeing no better option) takes a job as a hostess at a men’s club; she has to wear a skimpy uniform. She and Elijah are BOTH feeling down and lonely, so they decide to hook-up (super awkward)! Late at night, Adam comes into Hannah’s apt (he has a key for emergencies). She’s (obviously) surprised and tells him to leave; Adam refuses and she gets scared!

That scene was so fun to film b/c it was a sort of a real Adam Driver tour-de-force, going from terrifying to sweet, to about to cry, to raging out. I mean, the amount of emotional territory he covers in that scene is- to me- mind-boggling. -Dunham re: the pivotal scene (that ends w/ Hannah calling the cops on Adam)

E3: Bad Friend

Hannah gets a new freelance gig, and her editor suggests that she should try cocaine for the first time to write about her experience. In the process, she gets to know her downstairs neighbor, Laird. Meanwhile, Marnie meets her old artist flame, Booth Jonathan, who takes her home to show her his studio.

Hannah starts writing for a hip/young blog that wants content that pushes the boundaries. IF you were shocked by Hannah’s revealing clothes before- this ep MAY be too much. In the party scenes (filmed at Greenhouse- a SoHo nightclub) she wears a yellow mesh tank top. Hannah and Elijah do lines of coke off a toilet lid (ewww)! Then Hannah and Marnie have a big fight re: which on of them is a worse friend; MANY viewers commented that they related to this scene. Hannah turns to Laird (who has a BIT of a crush on her); she’s hooking up w/ him for the experience (so she can write about it). Putting herself in danger is NOT new for Hannah; this ep makes us worry about her perhaps a BIT more than usual!

E4: It’s a Shame About Ray

Elijah moves out, and Hannah invites a group including Charlie, Audrey and Marnie to dinner. Jessa meets Thomas-John’s parents, which finally prompts a confrontation between husband and wife. Shoshanna discovers that Ray may be living with her.

Hannah: You can’t just be a girl in this city and expect to get your way!

Marnie: But we are girls in this city!

Hannah: Not the right kind of girls!

Marnie: Girls none the less!

This is one of the highest-rated eps of S2; a LOT of stuff happens. At a steak dinner w/ Thomas-John’s WASP parents (played by veteran theater actors- Griffin Dunne and Deborah Rush), Jessa ends up revealing some dark facts (incl. her previous addiction to heroin). She lashes out in anger when she feels judged by these (passive aggressive) people. Back at their high-rise condo, we see that Thomas-John is NOT amused; they get into an ugly argument!

Dunham’s (real-life) BFF plays Charlie’s petite/bohemian gf, Audrey (Audrey Gelman). Marnie is upset/jealous seeing how close her ex and his new lady have gotten (in such a short time). Audrey and Marnie get into a big fight! Shosh and Ray have been gotten V close for the past few eps; she says: “I’m starting to fall in love w/ you” (as they wait for the subway). Rannells (already a Broadway star) left the series at this point to front his own comedy series- The New Normal (2012). This was canceled after one season, so he returned in the second half of S3.

E5: One Man’s Trash

A man comes to the coffee shop to complain to Ray that someone is leaving trash in his trash cans. Hannah follows him to his brownstone to confess and ends up spending the rest of the day, and the next day, with him.

This is the (much talked about) ep focused on Hannah’s weekend hookup w/ a handsome/older doctor, Joshua (Patrick Wilson- who lives w/ his fam in Greenpoint IRL). It’s basically a mini-movie starring 2 characters; many viewers loved it and others hated it (calling it implausible). There is a sort of hazy (dream-like) quality to this ep; one of the regular directors (Richard Shepard) did an esp. fine job here. According to Dunham, the idea for the ep and a great deal of the text came to her during a fever dream. While some viewers thought that this was unreal, others pointed out that some men would take the chance of a carefree hookup w/ a younger/willing woman. What happened to Joshua? Wait and see…

The relationship between Hannah and Joshua is quick, but I quite enjoyed it because of Dunham’s writing and chemistry with Wilson. Near the end of this affair we learn more about Hannah emotionally, as she breaks down in front of Joshua, because he has such a good life at his age while she seems to be stuck at her young age. […] Writing was strong and focusing on only this relationship was great to watch a big move, showing this show truly is special. -Excerpt from IMDB review

When Hannah walks away from his home at the end, all I could think was how similar this episode was to Woody Allen’s style of writing. A realistic fairytale that you relate to in a way that you can’t quite put your finger on. -Excerpt from IMDB review

E6: Boys

Hannah is hired to write an e-book, but has trouble finding inspiration. Booth asks Marnie to host a party with him for a gallery opening. Ray goes to see Adam, and they end up traveling to Staten Island to return a stolen dog.

This is the first ep in the series to have a solo writing credit to a man (Murray Miller); he is a problematic creative behind the show (as I noted in my S1 review). It focuses on my 2 fave characters (Adam and Ray); they’re opposites in some respects, BUT walk to their own drummer. Ray goes to Adam’s apt. (Brooklyn Hts) to get his copy of Little Women (which Hannah had left behind). There is a big/angry dog in the bathroom- yikes! Adam explains that he stole the dog b/c he thought the owner wasn’t treating him well. Ray convinces Adam to return the dog (he has tags); they travel via ferry (which I never did when I was in NYC) to Staten Island. I enjoyed seeing the (quirky) chemistry between Adam and Ray; they get to know each other, then get on each other’s nerves.

Adam: She’s like a carnival game, you know? It all seems so simple, but you can’t get the ring on the bottle, because it’s f*****g rigged so you try and try and try until you drive yourself nuts. Then, finally, when you walk away you realize you didn’t even want the crappy prize to begin with. I realize that’s what Hannah is: a giant Tweety doll I would’ve been stuck carrying around the carnival all night.

After Booth fires his assistant, Soojin, he asks Marnie to help host a party for his friends. Marnie is V happy to do this, thinking it’s a big step in their relationship. It turns out that Booth doesn’t think of her as his gf (ouch)! Of course, Marnie is NOT alone- there are MANY women who have been treated in the same way.

E7: Video Games

Hannah accompanies Jessa on a visit upstate to see Jessa’s estranged father, his new-age wife and Frank, their virginal teenage son.

We learn more about Jessa’s (troubled- no shock there) family when she and Hannah travel to upstate NY. Jessa’s estranged father, Sal, is played by Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn (who later made a big impression on the Netflix show- Bloodline and played a villain in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Jessa’s hippie stepmom, Petula, is played by a veteran Hollywood actress- Rosanna Arquette. Jessa felt physically/emotionally abandoned by her father; she tells him that she needed someone on her side when a teen (and going through a difficult time w/ her mom). Hannah is hurt and angry when Jessa leaves w/o her; she calls her parents from the train station to thank them for their support (aww). This was Kirke’s final appearance in S2 (as she was pregnant w/ her second baby). It was tough to feel empathy for Jessa until I saw this ep; her father is selfish and unreliable.

E8: It’s Back

I feel like in the second series, things start to get a little deeper into that, but he’s not someone who’s willing to share. I feel like he’s guarded on it and wouldn’t allow himself to explain himself. He always has this thing going on that he doesn’t need to explain himself at any point. -Driver on Sackler being a recovering alcoholic

Hannah tries to hide mounting anxiety about her book from her visiting parents. Meanwhile, Marnie is stunned by news that Charlie has started a successful app company; Adam gets set up on a date; and Ray’s misanthropy gives Shoshanna pause.

We learn a LOT more re: Hannah and Adam here! Hannah’s OCD resurfaces; she was affected w/ it back in HS. I learned (on the Good Friend podcast hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis) that Dunham also suffers from OCD. The ep opens w/ us seeing Hannah’s various OCD behaviors (so we glimpse into her mindset)! She is having writer’s block, though she has a deadline coming up soon. Also, her parents are coming to NYC to see singer Judy Collins (who plays herself).

After several eps, Adam is back- YAY! He shares his story at an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting; he starts talking re: quitting booze, then it turns to his breakup w/ Hannah. A petite/feisty lady named Cloris (veteran comedian Carol Kane) comments to him: “I was very impressed by your honesty.” She also asks Adam how tall he is (6′ 3″). Cloris gives Adam her daughter’s phone number, much to his chagrin. The phone call scene is cute and funny; Adam describes himself as “tall and kind of dashing.” At the dinner date, Adam and Natalia (Shiri Appleby) have fun and (obvious) chemistry.

The unexpected moment of the episode for me was Hannah having OCD which, when I think back on the show, seems to be a bit obvious how she has acted in life. It showed that the Dunham is taking risks to make the character of Hannah more interesting… -Excerpt from IMDB review

E9: On All Fours

[Sackler is] someone who follows his emotions and doesn’t pause and reflect. He’s always following an impulse and is aware of something that he’s lost – it jars with how unsettled he is. The more he tries to gain control, the more things get out of control. -Driver re: his character

The episode was so awkwardly comedic and dark in nearly everything the characters did which is what I really love about the show… -Excerpt from IMDB review

Pressure from Hannah’s aggressive publisher (John Cameron Mitchell) and a looming deadline further jeopardize Hannah’s mental state. Adam and his new girlfriend have their first misunderstanding. Marnie makes an awkward step in following her dreams.

Hannah is stressed out b/c of a deadline, so she sticks a Q-tip TOO deep into her ear (yikes)! FYI: The bemused ER doc who treats her is Ranjit Chowdhury (an Indian actor/ veteran of indies). Shosh tries to be caring gf to Ray, showering him w/ attention. Marnie decides to sing at a party at Charlie’s start-up; it’s V awkward. Adam and Natalia go to her friend’s engagement party at a bar; Angie is played by Dunham’s friend IRL- Amy Schumer. When he steps out for a moment, Adam sees Hannah walking home from the hospital (wearing just a long tee, no pants); they both look affected by their awkward conversation. This is perhaps the MOST controversial ep of the series, as it brings up the issue of consent (or perhaps more accurately- dubious consent). James Poniewozik, reviewer for TIME, called it “the most uncomfortable half hour of television of the year.” We see a dark side (pardon the Star Wars connection) of Sackler! Did you see this ep, and if so, what did you think?

E10 (Season 2 Finale): Together

In order to avoid being sued by her publisher, Hannah must write her book in a single day. Marnie misinterprets Charlie’s intentions; Ray makes a career move which he hopes will impress Shoshanna.

Adam: Is this f*****g Face Space or some s**t?

Many of Hannah’s friends and acquaintances are at a crossroads. Marnie and Charlie will find out if they’re on the same page (after several casual hookups together). Shosh isn’t sure if she can handle Ray’s negativity anymore; he sees this as critical thinking. Ray decides to be more ambitious; Hermie says he can manage the 2nd branch of Grumpy’s in Brooklyn Hts. Adam and Natalia are still together, BUT Adam is trying too hard to fit in w/ what she wants (can’t be himself). Hannah’s life is getting out of control; David threatens to sue, if she doesn’t produce her e-book (after getting an advance). Unable to reach Jessa, Hannah leaves a sad/angry voicemail. Finally, she gives Adam a call; he is breaking down some stuff (angrily) at his apt. Adam notices her OCD behavior and the (uneven) haircut she gave herself. He runs (shirtless- of course) to Hannah’s apt, kicks open the door (after she hides under the covers), and picks her up in his arms. When I saw this the first time, I thought it was quite a rom com type of ending. On my rewatch, I realized that maybe they aren’t good for each other (BUT need each other in this difficult moment).

Maybe not as good as last season’s finale, but still a great episode of TV’s best comedy. The season was less strong then the first season but still great, funny and even more dramatic as this women really faced real life problems. Dunham really showed this season she is a great actress, as well as everything she does for the show. All the women were strong… -Excerpt from IMDB review

“Girls”: Season 2 – Guys On “Girls”
Lena Dunham at Golden Globes (2013)
Dunham and cast at Golden Globes (2013) Q&A

“Girls” (HBO): Introduction & Season 1

Introduction

They’re definitely based on me, my circle of friends, and combined with the lives of my staff writers.

-Lena Dunham re: the characters

“Girls” premiered exactly 10 yrs ago today (April 15, 2012)! In the last 5 mos. of the pandemic, I’ve been watching the work of Adam Driver off/on; the actor (now 38 y.o.) was a regular cast member on this HBO show. Lena Dunham’s self-financed 2010 indie Tiny Furniture (2010) served as the template for the series, which also featured two of her close friends- Alex Karpovsky and Jemima Kirke. Judd Apatow (an experienced screenwriter/director/producer) emailed Dunham after becoming V impressed w/ her movie. He later stated that he “hoped the show would provide men w/ an insight into realistic females.” Apatow’s (Executive Producer) teen daughter (Maude) w/ wife (actress Leslie Mann) appears in S5.

Girls has sometimes been referred to as the “Millennial take on Sex and the City” (SATC). The stories are (mainly) set in/around Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The apts. of the main girls are NOT spacious or decorated w/ matching furnishings. Don’t expect to see many designer shoes (i.e. Manolos), clothes, or accessories here. The show subverts traditional rom com cliches, for the most part. The twists in the interpersonal connections are sometimes quite surprising. With time, romance becomes a key part of the show. In S5, the girls are caught up in their love lives, even if their choices are NOT working out. Music is integral to the show; Dunham wanted it to “complement the show w/o being a commentary.”

TV is usually the producer’s/writer’s medium; often showrunners write the eps. HBO teamed Dunham (then only 24 y.o.) w/ the more experienced- Jenni Konner- who became the co-showrunner. Konner directed 2 eps and wrote 17 eps; the two women became close friends and even started a production company (A Casual Romance). Dunham herself directed 19 eps. In 2017, Konner and Dunham put out a joint statement to The Hollywood Reporter, defending a staff writer (Murray Miller) against sexual assault allegations and claiming to have “insider knowledge” of his situation. Dunham later apologized for this statement and admitted that she and Konner had no “insider information” (so the claim had been a lie). Dunham issued a public apology to Aurora Perrineau (the alleged victim/daughter of actor Harold Perrineau); Konner has never issued a public apology.

The Women of “Girls”

I see some of you wondering: Am I supposed to like (or relate to) these upper middle-class/white girls? No, you don’t have to like a character for them to be interesting! They often act immature, narcissistic, and entitled. While the women on SATC (in their early 30s when that show began) were looking for husbands, dream jobs, etc, these characters don’t know what they want. Dunham plays Hannah Horvath, an aspiring writer who works as an editorial intern and lives in Greenpoint. Hannah was raised by parents who are academics in Michigan. Allison Williams (daughter of newsman Brian Williams) plays her roommate/best friend Marnie Michaels. She is tall/conventionally beautiful, wants to be an art curator, and has a serious boyfriend of several yrs. If you’ve seen SATC, you’ll no doubt find resemblance to Charlotte. Dunham explained that Hannah and Marnie’s V strong (yet complicated) friendship is based on her real-life experiences w/ her BFF- Audrey Gelman. Marnie was envisioned to have a different look than Williams, BUT she and Dunham got along from the first audition.

Jemima Kirke (who met Dunham in HS) plays Jessa Johansson; she’s British, bohemian, and beautiful. Jessa also attended Oberlin, but she left w/o graduating. Dunham had to convince Kirke (who had no intention to act) to take this role; she was a new mom and working as a painter. Jessa is the cousin of Shoshanna Shapiro (a senior at NYU); they live together as Jessa looks for a job. Dunham liked Zosia Mamet’s performance so much that kept her as a regular. She is typically “girly” (w/ a poster for SATC hung in her apt), loves fashion, and struggles w/ social anxiety. Many young/female viewers connected w/ Shosh. Zosia (fit/petite) is the daughter of filmmaker/playwright David Mamet and his ex-wife- actress Lindsay Crouse. “In a way, she is the most naive character, but in another way, she’s also the wisest,” Dunham explained.

The Men of Girls

I know people come up to Adam say “you’re a jerk” on the street all the time. I feel bad for him b/c he cannot hide. There is one person on the planet who looks like that… -Dunham

One of the first things I noticed on my (re-watch) was just how tall ALL the men were- LOL! Adam Sackler (Driver- who is 6’3″) is complicated, angry, weird, and seems to have little respect for Hannah (when we meet him in S1). He works w/ his hands (carpentry), wants to be an actor, and gets some money from his grandma. Dunham originally envisioned this character to be a handsome leading man type (w/ the looks of Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights). Adam Sackler was based on one of her ex-bfs from her early 20s; Dunham thought he’d appear on a few eps in S1 as Hannah’s love interest. That all changed when she met 27 y.o. Driver at his audition; they instantly had great chemistry together (and were conversing like they’d known each other for years)! Driver (the first of the cast to gain fame) was flying back and forth between NYC and London between S3 and S4 to film Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).

Ray Ploshansky (Karpovsky- also 6’3″) is 33 y.o. (almost 10 yrs. older than the girls) and the manager of a coffee shop- Grumpy’s. He’s the “voice of reason” (as many critics have commented) in the show; he becomes interested in Shosh (who is just 21 y.o. and has a personality which intrigues him). Elijah Krantz (Andrew Rannells- 6’2″) is Hannah’s ex-bf who she reconnects w/ in S1 E3; they met in college and have a LOT of shared history. He also aspires to be an actor, BUT isn’t doing much about it. Rannells (33 y.o. when the show premiered, but looked much younger) had already appeared (along w/ Josh Gad) in the hit Broadway musical- The Book of Mormon. Dunham and Konner had loved him on stage and were V excited when he came to audition. More men will be appearing as prominent guest starts as the show goes on.

Season 1

Living the dream. One mistake at a time. -Tagline for the show

E1: Pilot

Hannah is a mix of natural intelligence and improbable stupidity. …an interesting mix of complete confidence and no self-worth. -Dunham

Hannah declares to her parents at dinner: “I could be the voice of my generation, or at least a voice of my generation.” They say the can’t financially support her anymore; her mom explains: “We can’t keep bankrolling your groovy lifestyle.” The more soft-hearted Tad (Peter Scolari, who passed away in 2020) and his stricter wife- Loreen (Becky Ann Baker)- will appear in 20 eps; these experienced actors really brought a LOT to the show. Hannah (3 yrs out of college; former English major) and Marnie wake up together in their humble apt. They discuss texting on the way to the subway; Marnie thinks is “the lowest form of communication.” Hannah is let go from being an intern; the small publishing company can’t afford to hire her F/T.

I’d say Adam is a friend w/ benefits, although the friendship part of that is not always clear. -Dunham

Hannah goes to see Adam at his apt; he was a Comp Lit major, but is trying to be an actor. He’s shirtless, wearing only jeans, and talking re: carpentry (“it’s more honest” than other work). They have a (awkward) hookup and we learn that Adam is the one who takes charge. (The partial nudity here is shot from the side.) Marnie looks bored in her relationship (of 4 yrs.) w/ Charlie (Christopher Abbott); the spark seems to have gone out (at least on her side). Later that night, Hannah’s friends are chatting and having a dinner party at her apt. Jessa arrived from her travels; she confides in Marnie that she’s pregnant. Hannah drinks a tea w/ opium pods, then goes to her parents’ hotel.

E2: Vagina Panic

When we’re together, he’s so there and so present. And then he disappears for 2 wks. and doesn’t answer any text messages, and I feel as though I invented him. -Hannah re: Adam

This ep opens w/ two scenes (shot in partly darkened rooms) which are NOT for (easily offended) viewers: Adam is saying “dirty talk” in bed (which Hannah doesn’t enjoy); Charlie is gentle/respectful (Marnie is turned off). Marnie had set up an appointment for Jessa to have an abortion at a clinic; Hannah (saying she has been w/ 2 1/2 men) wonders if she could have an STD. At her job interview, Hannah has great rapport w/ Brian (Mike Birbiglia) until she makes a V problematic joke; he is NOT amused. The girls have Froyo and talk re: men/relationships; Shosh pulls out a dating advice book (this reminded me of when Charlotte was reading The Rules early in S1 of SATC). The gynecologist who sees Hannah is played by Sakina Jaffrey (daughter of veteran actress Madhur Jaffrey- recently seen on And Just Like That). Jessa goes to a bar, hits on a young man, and learns that she’s NOT pregnant (anymore).

E3: All Adventurous Women Do

Hannah contracted HPV (which is quite common); it’s NOT from Adam (as she’d assumed). It turns out that Elijah (her bf during the last 2 yrs at college) gave that to her. Hannah meets him for a drink and learns that he’s gay- whoa! Marnie becomes interested in an up-and-coming artist, Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone), maybe b/c he’s SO different from that Charlie. (FYI: Taccone comes from an artistic family from California; he was once in a comedy trio w/ Andy Samberg.) Jessa starts work as a babysitter for the Lavoyts (who have 2 young daughters); the mom- Katherine (Kathryn Hahn)- is a fashion photographer and the dad- Jeff (James LeGros)- doesn’t seem to have much going on. Jessa treats her job in a laissez-faire attitude (as she does w/ everything in life).

E4: Hannah’s Diary

After getting a (shocking) photo from Adam, Hannah takes up “sexting” (though she feels weird about it). It turns out that Adam’s NSFW pic was for another girl! Marnie and Charlie are shocked and wonder what kind of weirdo would do that!? Shosh runs into a popular guy, Matt Kornstein (Skylar Astin), from their summer camp days. (FYI: Astin studied at NYU Tisch and was in the cast of Spring Awakening on Broadway.) Jessa gets distracted at her babysitting job. Ray and Charlie find and read Hannah’s diary- yikes!

E5: Hard Being Easy

Hannah pays a (surprise) visit to Adam’s apt, but he’s NOT amused. He wants his own space and time to work on whatever furniture he’s building. Jessa decides to meet w/ one of her ex-bfs; he has a new gf now, yet she has the need to run her game on him. (Their hookup scene reminded me more to what’d happen w/ Samantha in SATC.) Years later, Dunham said that it wasn’t the right scene for this show. Charlie reconsiders his relationship w/ Marnie after seeing what was in that diary.

E6: The Return

Hannah goes home to Michigan for her parents’ anniversary. She runs into one of her HS friends, Heather Travis (Vanessa Ray), who is planning to move to LA to become an actress. (FYI: Ray co-starred in the indie Not Waving, But Drowning w/ Driver- his 1st feature film.) Hannah decides to go on a to a charity benefit w/ an eager/young pharmacist, Eric (Lou Tyler Pucci). This is a view into how life could’ve been for Hannah if she’d stayed close to home.

E7: Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident

The girls go to a warehouse party where Marnie discovers Charlie has a new gf, Audrey (played by Dunham’s best friend- Audrey Gelman). Wait, Adam owns a shirt? LOL- this is the 1st time we see him wearing a shirt on the show! Hannah sees Adam dancing w/ a group of his lesbian BFFs; she learns that he’s in AA from one woman- Tako (Roberta Colindrez). We get to see some wacky dance moves from the cast/extras. Jeff comes to see Jessa (dressed in an unique outfit) at this party, but ends up in the ER. Shosh accidentally smokes crack (yikes); Ray keeps watch over her.

Hannah and Adam ride off on his bike; she admits that does want him to be her bf. Adam thinks she’s too self-involved; she doesn’t ask about his life. Suddenly, he stops the bike, and she falls off. Marnie is pissed off at Adam when she comes up in a cab, BUT they all three end up riding together. Hannah has a small smile on her face.

E8: Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too

Hannah is spending more time w/ Adam than ever. She goes to the “tech” (technical rehearsal) of a play Adam is doing w/ Gavin (Henry Zebrowski). Then, Adam acts out a scene where he’s quite vulnerable; we learn something from his youth. After Gavin makes some choices Adam doesn’t like, he suddenly quits. He declares that he doesn’t want to do anything that he doesn’t believe in fully. Marnie is miserable after learning (via Facebook) that Charlie went to Rome w/ Audrey. She wonders how he can recover SO fast!? Marnie and Jessa go to a classy-looking bar to talk; they meet a lonely venture capitalist, Thomas John (Chris O’Dowd- an Aussie actor).

E9: Leave Me Alone

The girls attend a book launch for Hannah’s college nemesis, Tally Schifrin (Jenny Slate). Hannah can’t help but feel jealous; Tally passive aggressively puts her down. Hannah sees one of her former writing profs, Powell Goldman (Michael Imperioli), at this party. He praises her talent and invites her to a “salon” (reading). Hannah also tries out for a job at Grumpy’s. She and Marnie get into a huge fight!

E10: She Did

Marnie moves out of the apt- wow! She finally admits that maybe NOT having a plan is a good thing for now. Hannah considers the idea of Adam moving in; he may even be open to it. Jessa (who has been out of touch for weeks) suddenly invites them to a surprise event- her wedding to Thomas John! Their vows are unusual, yet they look V happy. Look at the friends’ reactions at the ceremony/reception; each person is feeling something different. Marnie is trying to be chill/non-judgmental. She even acts nice to Elijah, who has a new relationship w/ an older man and seems more calm. Ray decides to tell Shosh how much he likes her; they get together.

Adam (who had watched the ceremony intently) looks full of strong emotions. Then he and Hannah act playful and have a slow dance. However, after the cake is cut and it’s almost time to leave, Adam and Hannah get into a fight. He thinks his love is being rejected now, after 6 mos. of Hannah chasing after him. Suddenly, a van drives by and side-swipes Adam (who’d been standing on the street)! When the ambulance comes, he tells the EMT to NOT let Hannah get onboard b/c she’s a “monster.” Hannah gets on the subway, falls asleep, and winds up at the end of the line (Coney Island). Her purse is gone- no surprise there. Hannah walks to the beach and eats a piece of the wedding cake in the quiet of early morning.