Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TV Time: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie. Netflix original series, 2015. Starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston.

Grace and Frankie is about two women whose husbands Robert and Sol respectively one day announce that they are gay and are leaving Grace and Frankie for each other.

The show is a comedy that focuses on the growing friendship between Grace (Fonda), an uptight WASP with perfect hair and Frankie (Tomlin), an artistic Jewish woman who smokes pot and does yoga and wears big flamboyant jewelry. The four have known each other for years though they have never gotten along very well. But now they're sharing Grace's beach house until they can figure out what to do next.

Both couples have adult children who take the news well, although Frankie's son Nwabudike acknowledges the pressure they feel to accept Sol and Robert's relationship; if his dad had left his mom for another woman, his reaction, he says, wouldn't be so positive. But basically the kids accept the new normal and do their best to negotiate their relationship with Grace and Frankie as well as with each other. They're all going to be one big happy family now, right?

For thirteen episodes Grace and Frankie is light lunchtime TV that is nonetheless emotional and moving. Over time they hash out various issues they've had over the years, flirt with the idea of new boyfriends and new lives for themselves and grow to appreciate and enjoy each other's company. Grace finds a hunky beau while Frankie works through her complicated feelings towards her now ex-husband, who may still have feelings for her despite his new relationship and identity.

I enjoyed Fonda and Tomlin more than Waterston and Sheen. The women are facing a real crossroads in their life, left behind at a vulnerable stage of life and the actresses portray that confusion and sense of loss really well.  The men, especially Waterston, always looked like they were on the verge of cracking up, and Sol and Robert came across as mostly glib and shallow too. Sol (Waterston) seems to have more feeling about the effects of his choice, more compassion for Frankie although he does do some things which are quite self-centered with respect to her. Robert's (Sheen) break with Grace is cleaner. He and Grace had been distant for a long time and he also shows less empathy for her. He is fully focused on moving forward. In the first episode for example, he immediately cuts off his wife's credit card, oblivious to the effect this would have on a woman who hasn't supported herself in years.

Events move along towards Sol and Robert's wedding but the season ends with a cliffhanger that could potentially tear the couple apart. And it's been renewed for Season 2, which almost disappoints me because I thought the ending is perfect as is.