Olive Kitteridge: HBO miniseries showcases McDormand’s killer sardonic skills

Olive KitteridgeOLIVE KITTERIDGE (2014, HBO Miniseries) Starring: Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Bill Murray. Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko.

Three and a half stars out of five

Watching Frances McDormand’s face is a bit like reading a great Victorian novel. She may be giving us a straightforward chunk of dialogue, but beneath the surface, an entirely different narrative is taking place. Beneath every wrinkle lies a wealth of understated passions, existential awareness and razor-sharp wit that brings emotional currency to every role, including her turn as Olive Kitteridge, the central character in Elizabeth Strout’s 2008 novel. Reunited with her Laurel Canyon director Lisa Cholodenko, McDormand takes this story of a smart, but calloused schoolteacher to the very edge of melodrama without losing her balance, which is probably the miniseries’ biggest victory because its very structure screams soap opera. With Richard Jenkins and Bill Murray sharing the frames, we get a little breathing room from the emotional oppression, but this is McDormand’s show, and she takes us through every dip and gutter of this slice of rural life with a hint of an old carny strapping you in for a memorable ride. – Katherine Monk

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