Monday, December 10, 2018

REVIEW: 'My Brilliant Friend' - Lila's Wedding Forces Profound Remarks Between Her and Elena in 'The Promise'

HBO's My Brilliant Friend - Episode 1.08 "The Promise"

With sales of Cerullo shoes lagging, Stefano cuts a business deal with the Solaras, against Lila's wishes. After Elena gets kicked out of a class for voicing her opinion, Nino encourages her to write an article about her experience for his magazine. Elena and Lila get unwelcome surprises.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of HBO's My Brilliant Friend.

"The Promise" was written by Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci & Saverio Costanzo and directed by Saverio Costanzo

So much of this series has focused on the friendship between Elena and Lila being defined by their different life experiences and thus the jealousy that comes from their individual actions. They both yearn for what the other has. It has always been a more profound and predominate feeling for Elena though because it's her older self narrating this entire adventure. Sure, there are plenty of insights into how Lila sees the world. But most of the time, Lila comes across solely through Elena's perception of her. She is so effortlessly beautiful, confident and compelling. She commands attention no matter where she goes because of her beauty and her smarts. She is preparing for her wedding. However, she can be incredibly insecure and depressed as well. She is so broken when the world continues to push her and her ideas down. She wants to believe that her voice matters. That she is more than just the little girl who did some drawings. She wants ownership over the shoes that are now being sold in the store. Her father doesn't wish to give her any credit because he's the one at the store actually producing them. Rino and Stefano are there as well trying to sell them to their customers. It's only then that they are hit with the crushing realization that these luxury items have no purpose in this specific neighborhood. This is the wrong place for a store such as this. It could be a fatal flaw to their business. It's not Lila's fault at all. And yet, she's the one who is defeated upon learning that they have to team with the Solaras family in order to get the shoes into the stores downtown. She is happy to be preparing for her wedding. She feels the need to include Elena in every stage of the planning process. This is something she is willing to do. But her feelings are all thrown into turmoil when it seems like Stefano is willing to betrayal her by once again welcome Marcello into her life. She wants to know that her feelings are being understood. She wants that companionship and trust. She only really has it with Elena. And yet, Elena too often feels defeated because Lila just understands the world so completely while it's a constant struggle for her. When she is writing an article for Nino's magazine, she believes it's good before Lila decides to edit some things about it. That's a major part of the creative process. Sharing one's work and getting feedback is a crucial tool. However, Elena only sees that through her friendship with Lila and how her best friend always has to make everything better. Regarding the shoes though, it's up to Elena to comfort her. It's her responsibility to talk everything out in a rational way. That proves the latest advantage she has because of her schooling. She knows how to talk eloquently so that everyone likes her and can eventually come around on her argument. Lila resents that because she commands so much attention but is unformed because her education was forced to stop. As such, she doesn't know how to use her words or emotions in order to command the respect and appreciation she needs in a moment like this. However, everything still works out for the best for her. Her shoes are being sold and she is married to Stefano.

The wedding is such a beautiful sequence as well. That shows off the strong directorial eye from Saverio Costanzo. He frames the actual ceremony as if it's footage that is being recorded for this special event. It still frames every important glance from character to character that informs so much of the storytelling. But it's still fundamentally about the celebration of Lila and Stefano's marriage. Their union will continue to be prosperous because they have the entire support of the neighborhood around them. Lila is a gorgeous bride wearing the dress that Elena picked out for her to wear. But the feeling is still bursting out that Lila is so much more developed than Elena is at the moment. It's so intimate as Elena helps Lila bathe before the ceremony. The camera lingers on her naked body too as Elena looks her up and down. To her, this is what a woman is suppose to look like. A woman who is about to get married and start a family of her own. She sees this as what she is suppose to be doing with her life. It's the message that has always been giving to her. This is what the trajectory for a woman should be. She should work for the family business and only speak up when her opinion can be appreciated in any given situation. Elena continues to go through the motions of having crushes and boyfriends. But again, she doesn't really feel anything for Antonio. She is dating him but already planning on their breakup following the wedding. Of course, he doesn't see things the same way. He sees this as a lasting relationship that can be very beneficial for him. It's rare for him to be in the city. And yet, he's there to walk her home one day because he is buying the suit for the wedding. This is an investment that he is proud to have for his life. He sees it as the building of a dynamic that will last for a long time. But Elena is still yearning for Nino. He is the one at school who is able to help her out of a complicated situation. She speaks her true mind in religion class and is immediately pushed out of the classroom. Nino is the student roaming the halls encouraging her to do what's necessary in order to continue her education. That's the most important thing for her to do. Lila agrees as well. She desires that opportunity. She wants to be in school alongside Elena where the only concern is about getting good enough grades. That's the life where she thrived for a brief period of time. She has the tools to succeed in that environment. She just had to start working and get married. That's the life for her. As such, she views Elena as her brilliant friend because she's the one still actively learning. That's so envious. Lila believes that Elena can achieve whatever she wants if she just keeps going to school. But she can't stay in school forever. There is only so much school she can complete. Plus, she still wants other life experiences as well.

However, everything eventually turns into personal tragedy at the wedding. Elena is portrayed as a young, innocent girl trying to sneak around her parents to act on her crushes. Her family doesn't know everything that's going on in her life. She feels validated just by seeing her name in print being associated with an article of merit that can argue a point extremely well. And yet, that opportunity is taken away from her. Nino is still so tentative in his actions. He doesn't know what his father did to Elena. But he keeps his distance as well. He encourages her to a point. He too believes that she is smarter than anyone else in their grade. But he seldom engages in conversation with her. She is giving him all of her attention which only makes Antonio feel betrayed by her. These two young men walking away from her is devastating to Elena. However, she also realizes that all of this is petty personal drama from a lower class life. She now understands that she was given this opportunity to continue her education and escape to something better. She had that already with her vacation to Ischia. Even then, she was confined to a very specific box of what she felt was appropriate for her to do. She still feels that way in many aspects of her life. She understands that Lila hasn't escaped from the neighborhood. This wedding may be a lavish event where Stefano's family could afford anything they wanted for the ceremony. But it's still fundamentally the same people she has always known. This is still the story of drama between Stefano and Marcello. Their respective families continue to clash and battle for power in this neighborhood. That is still a major component of this wedding. Lila doesn't want Marcello there. And yet, he does show up. It's very telling that Elena is willing to walk away from all of this only to turn back around in terror to warn her best friend that the one person she didn't want at her wedding has arrived. That proves that Elena understands the impulse to escape this life. She desperately wants to do so. But the attraction to this neighborhood is still incredibly enticing. This is a life that has always been so envious for her. She wants to continue supporting Lila. They may have not spent much personal time together at the reception. When the time comes for it though, their eyes lock and they immediately understand each other without a single word needing to be said. Elena understands what Lila is feeling when she sees Marcello at her wedding wearing her shoes. But it mostly proves how Elena will be stuck in this tragic pattern for her entire life. That's tragic in its own way because it's clear that she could accomplish so much more if she wasn't so distracted in this regard.