Thomas Hayden Church

HBO’s ‘Divorce’: Over-dressed and underprepared

Sarah Jessica Parker's new HBO series has taken the safe route and that's a problem

By KOURTNEY PARANTEAU

Whenever actors portray characters of landmark importance, their subsequent roles carry the ghost of those past performance. Take any of the actors who’ve donned James Bond’s three-piece suit, Seann William Scott, or Sarah Michelle Gellar. An audience’s expectation can haunt the plausibility of an actor’s presence outside of the role they’ve become synonymous with.

Perhaps no one knows this better than Sarah Jessica Parker. Although already a success prior to appearing as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City (1998-2004), her legacy in Hollywood will always be sealed with a Cranberry Kiss and the click of Manolo Blahniks.

Carrie Bradshaw and her three best friends forever altered the face of television; unapologetically feminine and graphically sexual, Sex and the City proved there was a market for a female-dominated cable show. Since its airing, shows like Girls, Damages, Broad City, and many more of their ilk carry Carrie’s legacy. Now, over a decade after its finale, Divorce reunites Parker with HBO and teams them with Catastrophe co-creator, Sharon Horgan.

Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO's DIVORCE/Courtesy HBO

Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO’s DIVORCE/Courtesy HBO

Delivering on its title, Divorce tracks the crumbling marriage of a couple just past middle age. After settling into roles as professionals, parents and homeowners, the pair have grown out of their partnership and now live under a veil of passive aggression and resentment-laden antagonism.

Frances (Parker) and Robert (Thomas Hayden Church), while attending a birthday party, brush against their own mortality, and for Frances, the flash of crisis sobers her on the comfortable haze of her current life. She blindsides her husband with the request of divorce. Long disillusioned with her marriage, Frances maintains an affair with a granola-making, Peter Pan type, performs a job she empathetically coasts through, and harbors aspiration of opening an art gallery. The oppositions between Frances’s husband and her lover, her job and her passion, make her appear lost in the maze of “having it all” feminism that popular culture wants, maniacally, to believe exists.

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