Saturday, December 8, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' - Midge Examines the Idea of Suffering for Art in 'Look, She Made a Hat'

Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Episode 2.07 "Look, She Made a Hat"

Benjamin opens Midge's eyes to the New York art scene, and she ends up knowing more about art than she realizes. The Maisel and Weissman families come together for a tension-filled Yom Kippur dinner on the anniversary of Joel and Midge's separation. A reluctant Susie turns to her family for help in advancing her career.

In 2018, it makes no sense to provide full-length reviews of each individual episode for shows released all at once on the streaming services. Sure, there are some shows out there that value the power of the episode. They do make a point in differentiating each episode to ensure it's not just one big slog to the finish. However, the ability to watch the entire season at one's own viewing pace has largely changed the way we consume and discuss these shows. So, some brief summary thoughts are really all that's actually necessary with these seasons. As such, here are my latest thoughts on the next episode of Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

"Look, She Made a Hat" was written by Amy Sherman-Palladino and directed by Jamie Babbit

Do art and suffering go together? Does an artist have to suffer in order to create great art? Does producing great art mean the artist suffers in other aspects of his or her life? Does art suffer if an artist is too distracted by something else going on? These are the questions that the show wades into during the hour in which Midge finally reveals her stand-up aspirations to her entire family. That's a sequence that comes at the end of the hour. Leading up to that point, it's a story about Midge and Benjamin growing closer in their relationship while also interacting with an artist famous for not selling his paintings. He is a genius revered in his community. Midge claims that she knows absolutely knowing about art. She is taken to this exhibit and buys a piece from the side show. To her, that's the piece that speaks to her. She is willing to articulate that it's because she could relate to it. She understood the feeling of desire and mystery. She understood the burden of a secret and the willingness to learn what it is. That's been her life since her separation from Joel. And now, she actually feels confident with the life that she has. A year has gone by over the course of the series so far. Midge is on her way in the stand-up world while the family is closer than ever before. Midge has made promises about telling her family about her secret career. She was ultimately discovered by Abe, who was shocked by the lives that his children are living without telling their parents. But it's also so fascinating to watch as Midge and Declan Howell understand each other even though their dynamic is wildly inappropriate. He is a sexist who only entertains Benjamin because he is attracted to Midge. She knows how to deal with men like him though. She has experienced it all during her time out in the world - especially in the comedy clubs. She knows exactly how to push back without being hurt by all of these invasive actions. She can handle herself. Of course, it proves that Benjamin is a good guy because he is willing to fight for her against those who wish to invade her privacy. And yet, it's Midge who is actually taken into Declan's secret room to see the brilliant painting that only a few have seen. She is mesmerized by it. However, it also punctuates Declan's big declaration about the idea of struggling when it comes to art. He believes that he gave everything he ever had to this one painting. As such, he can never sell it. He can never display it. Nothing can do it justice. It's the price of his dignity and soul. That's so steep. And yet, it's so tragic as well. He believes that he can never create anything that magnificent ever again. He continues to create. But he's surrounded by the tragedy of no longer being entertained by the world because he has experienced it all already and given it away. Midge doesn't agree with that assessment. She still sees the beauty of the world. She doesn't indulge in his invitation for sex. She stands committed to Benjamin. However, she may not realize the true extent of what she'll have to sacrifice in order to make it as a stand-up comedian.

Midge at least takes the step in the right direction though. Sure, it's not her decision to tell the family the truth about her career. Her father tells her to do so because he can't lie for her so soon after Yom Kippur services. He has to last longer into the new year before sinning again. It's also surprising that the family reacts with confusion instead of anger. Of course, Abe is angry. His anger is part of a performance though. He is trying to pretend that he knew nothing about what's going on in his children's lives. And yet, he is frustrated with both of them because of the secrets they've kept. Midge is also trying to make this moment about herself. To her, it's frustrating that she keeps getting interrupted. This is a massive change to her life that she is completely passionate about. She invited Susie over so that she would have backup with this confession. She wants Joel by her side as well. However, Joel and Susie are the ones in agreement when it comes to touring being bad for personal relationships. They don't think her relationship with Benjamin can last but for very different reasons. Susie wants Midge focused completely on the tour and making new fans. Meanwhile, Joel doesn't want Midge to be dating anyone else because he is clearly still pining after her. Of course, that's frustrating because he pushed her away and still expects to be forgiven for his actions. But again, this moment at the diner table is about the chaos and confusion. Rose doesn't understand how Susie can be both a manager and a plumber. Shirley doesn't even know what stand-up comedian is. Moishe wants to hear a simple and concise joke right away. And Noah wants Midge to know that not everything is about her in this moment. It's about the massive reveals in his family as well - with the discovery that he works for the CIA and Astrid now being pregnant. It's so glorious because it all ends in disaster with Zelda demanding that the family enjoys the dinner she made while the rabbi is scared off. None of this keeps Midge from going to her gig and absolutely killing it. Her life is about to change in a major way. It's just going to be fascinating to see who in this family actually goes out and supports her for her shows. That will give them the biggest clues as to if this is a career that makes sense and can be understood. So, things will remain very tenuous within the family despite the secrets now being out.