Thursday, April 16, 2015

REVIEW: 'Louie' - Louie Goes Grocery Shopping with His Daughters and Then Goes Out with Pamela in 'A La Carte'

FX's Louie - Episode 5.02 "A La Carte"

Louie hosts an open mike.

Long gone are the days of Louie episodes featuring two stories that don't have much to do with each other but get paired together because Louis C.K. thinks they would make a good combination. "A La Carte" somewhat functions as one of those episodes - with Louie mentoring a young comedian and a day out with Pamela largely being separate stories that don't intertwine. And yet, there are still enough threads that the stories could derive meaning out of being told at the same time. That has also been a pleasure of this show. One moment it can be completely absurd - like Louie running through the streets of New York City with his daughters trying to make it home to go to the bathroom - and the next it is digging deep into an actual story.

C.K. has never been all that big on continuity. Pamela was no where to be seen in last week's premiere. In that episode, he had no problem feeling isolated and desperate for a sexual encounter with a woman. In "A La Carte," he's very serious about his relationship with Pamela. It's only after he expresses those feelings that she gives him a rousing speech about it being okay for him to sleep with other women. In some ways, that makes this episode a better and more appropriate premiere.

Louie's relationship with Pamela is a very complicated and tricky dynamic to balance. The show hasn't done a great job at making it appear as if the two of them are actually good for each other. In fact, it's done the opposite in making Pamela almost toxic for Louie. Only sometimes does it feel like the show is actually aware of that fact. Pamela Adlon gets a story by credit alongside this episode with Louis C.K. and perhaps that's why their dynamic feels better balanced here. It's still not perfect in an earnest and genuine way. It has to work hard in order to land the comedic beats. The part of her speech where she claims that Louie isn't a fun man so she has to make fun of him in order to make him appealing was just so cringe inducing. And yet, that didn't lessen her point-of-view in her later argument about not wanting to be exclusive with Louie. Sure, it's a perspective that is almost all about his physical appearance and desirability. But she also does bring up some valid points about most couples who follow that traditional route ending in ruins. Louie can't argue with that fact. Doing something different from the norm is what these two were always going to do. It's just more pronounced when Pamela has to articulate those feelings.

And yet, Pamela is also basically saying she is only going to enjoy Louie for two more years. After that, he will have passed his peak and be on the decline in all aspects of his life. She wants to be friends and have sex with him. But that's an arrangement she's not fully committed to in the long term either. However, the show smartly says that that is okay too. She's enjoying things in the moment and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Sure, there may be pain in the future because they want different things out of this relationship. But right now, she thinks they have a good thing going and she doesn't want either one of them to mess that up. That is a very understandable point-of-view - even if it is coming from messed up Pamela.

Louie is happy to keep things the way they are with Pamela. Even though at times she's a horrible human being, he likes that a woman wants to regularly sleep with him. That fact has made him a little too committed to this relationship. It helps immensely that Pamela is able to be honest with him about what their future should be. And yet, when's he lying awake at night with her asleep in his arms, he still has that longing for something more. He wasn't able to articulate that all that well to her. That's likely what will eventually end this relationship. When he was trying to critique the new comedian's horrible routine, he didn't really know what kind of advice to offer him. He's never been that good at telling others what he needs or what they should do. He is brutally honest in saying that the guy should just leave the business. But Louie making an effort to actually give a suggestion is the one thing that makes the new comedian an over night sensation. It's the kind of payoff to the story that was expected. However, it does highlight that if Louie makes that effort to articulate his thoughts it can be very beneficial. In this case, that other comedian got to be a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. With Pamela, it could destroy the relationship. But this relationship isn't worth having if her needs outweigh his all the time. She compromised and saw the French movie with him. She wasn't that committed to it and they left early but she still made that effort to do something for him. They are friends after all. She may make fun of him and not want to hear his stories of the past. But him addressing those concerns are only going to help him out in the long run.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A La Carte" was directed by Louis C.K. with story by Louis C.K. & Pamela Adlon and teleplay by Louis C.K.
  • That opening sequence really was fantastic. The funniest thing of the season so far. It's great because this is such a huge emergency for Louie and his daughters and the world around them couldn't care less. Plus, the mystery of not knowing how it ends after Louie tells his daughters to leave makes it even better overall.
  • Louie's stand-up bit about towns in North Carolina and South Caroline wasn't some of his funnier material. But at least Pamela was there supporting him in what he actually does for a living.
  • Louie was fine hosting the open mic night for 400 dollars. 500 was on the table but neither party was really interested in that higher amount.
  • It's somewhat sad but painfully realistic that the stand-up organizer has to tell Louie not to put two female comedians on the stage back-to-back. And then, when he tries doing that, a female voice yells at him offscreen that he's not suppose to do that. Its institutionalism spoken about as bluntly as possible.
  • The waitress grating cheese all over the chest of the woman Pamela told Louie to stare at in the restaurant was wonderfully over-the-top.