Sunday, October 16, 2016

REVIEW: 'Divorce' - Frances and Robert Need to Talk But Struggle to Come Together Again in 'Next Day'

HBO's Divorce - Episode 1.02 "Next Day"

Frances rushes to intercept Robert before he tells the kids that she's divorcing him. Everyone gathers at the hospital to support Diane as she waits for news on Nick's condition. In the midst of the chaos, Frances considers finally signing a lease to open her long-planned art gallery.

The premiere of Divorce was all about the event that led Frances to ask Robert for a divorce. It was then about the questioning of that action. Is this something that Frances actually wants? Or was it just an impulsive decision that came out after Nick's heart attack? It forced a lot of ugly truths to the surface. Diane's 50th birthday party revealed some serious flaws in Frances and Robert's marriage. They simply can't go back to the way things were. These secrets have been unearthed. And now, they need to find some way to deal with them. Does that mean they actually go through with the divorce? Are they simply unable to overcome these new problems? Frances was unhappy for a long time. She had an affair with Julian. It was a dynamic she really loved and cared about. Of course, he didn't see it the same way as she did. So now, Frances is trying to make things work with Robert. But he has to be willing to work things out with her as well. A marriage takes two people. They have to evolve other the years as new challenges emerge. This big event helped both realize the problems in their marriage. And now, "Next Day" is largely about the immediate reactions to these revelations. Neither one of them wants to talk to each other. And yet, it's simply something they need to do.

Frances wants to talk but has nothing to say. Robert doesn't want to talk and has everything to say. All Frances can do is apologize for her actions. It's because of her that this whole conversation is happening right now. She can be a very non-committal person. She didn't want to commit to a future with Robert because she thought she had Julian. Once she realized that wasn't true at all, she came running back to Robert only to discover it was too late. He has learned about her secret affair. He reacted in an impulsive way as well by changing the locks and wanting to tell the children the truth about their despicable mother. It's Frances' actions that are tearing this family apart. She spends a considerable amount of time in this episode trying to run after Robert and get him to talk with her. It's a little too exhausting. Why should the audience want this relationship to stay together? Yes, it's important for the children. But we don't really have a solid understanding of how these two people work well together. So, it's hard to watch Frances fight so hard for her marriage when it's clear that things are heading towards divorce.

Frances' efforts to get Robert to talk to her are somewhat amusing. They are the primary sources of story and humor throughout "Next Day." She has to find a way to get back into the house which leads to her knocking on every door and throwing rocks at windows. She calls Robert on the neighbor's phone and throws out expletives in front of their children. She races to catch him in the hospital and only finds him because he can't find the exit. She has to get to the children before he does and she only wins their affection by bringing the dog with her. There's a lot of running and Frances needing to explain herself. It's situational humor that at times is very effective. It's funny that Robert doesn't believe the dog she has is the same one from Diane's birthday party. It is but he doesn't remember it being that big. But it is exhausting watching Frances put in all of this effort to talk with Robert only for her to realize she doesn't have anything new or original to say. She's sorry and that's about it. It's understandable for the story to go in that direction. It just doesn't make for the most exciting episode.

So, "Next Day" serves as a way to continue to flesh out Frances and Robert's lives. They are both given careers in this episode. That's an important detail of their lives. It was noticeably absent during the premiere. When it comes to divorce, the kinds of jobs and incomes these people have could become very important. So, it's appreciated that they get some attention here. Robert renovates houses. He has a couple of projects he's working on right now. It provides him with a nice distraction from what's happening in his life. And yet, he still has enough time to visit his friend, Nick, in the hospital and try to pick the kids up from school. He has that kind of flexibility while also being the man in charge. Meanwhile, Frances' dream is to open an art gallery. It doesn't seem like she has an actual job right now. She's relying on Robert's income to keep the family afloat. This is a hectic time for her. She could use something that is solely hers to put all of her intention into. This art gallery could be a good escape for her. But she's still so unsure about it. It's her dream but so much is happening in her life right now. She worries that it won't work out even though this is probably the best space she could possibly find. It shows that she doesn't have a whole lot of confidence right now with pretty much everything that she does.

Of course, Frances does have the support of her friends. That's something that she has that Robert doesn't. All he has is Nick who is in a medically-induced coma because of Diane. They have a genuine friendship. He wants to talk with him and not any of the women also in the room. He sees how they are mistreating him. Diane couldn't care less while her lawyer wants her to accept zero responsibility for Nick's current condition. Robert does lash out at Diane and Dallas for being just as horrible as Frances is. He takes out his frustrations on them. Dallas knew the truth about Julian. She wanted Frances to be careful so that she wouldn't ruin her marriage. But after this moment with Robert, she's all for Frances divorcing him and finding a better future for herself. Meanwhile, Diane is stunned to learn that Frances has been having this affair. She feels like she shares everything with her best friends. And now, she can't understand why Frances kept this from her. Once again, everything needs to be about Diane. Frances kinda disappears into the background whenever she's with Diane. It's an interesting friendship. One that may not be all that healthy. But most of its problems come from Diane and not Frances' inability to stand by her actions and their potential consequences.

In the end, Frances and Robert do sit down and talk. It's something they needed to do. This current dynamic between them couldn't last forever. It's understandable that Robert would be upset and want Frances out of his life completely. It's just more complicated than that. She's continuing to insert herself into his life. He isn't able to run away from her. She keeps popping up wanting to fix things. Things may not be able to be fixed. After this day though, Robert starts to take some responsibility as well. Frances did cheat and she's not telling the whole truth about Julian meaning nothing to her. But Robert accepts that it was his failures that led Frances elsewhere. He's no longer immediately needing her to leave. They are in a weird area where they are in the same house but staying in different rooms. Frances and her daughter are sharing the master bedroom with the dog while Robert gets his daughter's bedroom. It's a living arrangement that probably won't last for very long. It's certainly an interesting visual. But it's also clear that Robert isn't letting go of his anger and frustrations so easily. He's still holding onto the idea that Frances cheated on him with Julian, a professor who makes his own granola. Robert wants to know why she chose that guy instead of him which probably won't lead to anything good in next week's episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Next Day" was written by Sharon Horgan & Paul Simms and directed by Jesse Peretz.
  • The children know that Frances and Robert are acting strangely. The story just isn't adding up as to why Frances didn't sleep at home. They are surprised when both parents show up at school to pick them up. But all of their worries largely go away once they see the dog.
  • It's a little horrifying to see Frances continue a conversation with her daughter on the school bus talking about the dangers of driving while drunk. It's an awkward scene that shows that she really has no boundaries.
  • Of course, Frances is all about maintaining appearances to her neighbors as well. She's clearly upset with Robert for locking her out of the house. The neighbors' kids hear her swearing quite a bit. And yet, she still puts on a good face and invites them to dinner sometime.
  • Diane still doesn't totally embrace the reality of her situation. She sees Nick as just sleeping and not in a coma. It's because the doctors did this to him to help him heal that she sees it as not that big of a deal.
  • Also, it won't be surprising at all when Nick finally does wake up and have to face what happened the night of the party. If he dies while in a coma, that sure would be a strange use of Tracy Letts. 
  • Julian making his own granola has become quite the important character detail. It's how everyone knows him. It's also funny that Robert thinks it's a euphemism for something sexual.