I don’t think you can watch Enlightened by Mike White and NOT love Mike White. His first film I saw was “Chuck and Buck,” an indie picture about two men who had fooled around as small children; one got over and is a corporate successful type with a beautiful finance. The other, not quite mentally retarded, but sort of slow, still dreams about a fairy tale ending with the corporate guy. They reunite at corporate guy’s mother’s funeral, and the rest of the story goes crazy, as the Other just goes for it. He moves to L.A., writes and produces a play about how much he loves Corporate Guy, and invites Corporate Guy and Fiance to come. It is a wonderful piece of writing that, I don’t know how to explain it, comes from a very deep place. You know when you’re following a story and you get a sense like, whoa, he just tapped into a well? It’s like that.
“Enlightened,” which is a TV series, is probably not consistently well-like (it’s a TV series, so I don’t think you can go as deep) but centers around a woman whose life is falling apart and how she moves on from there. It is such a wonderful TV series that makes such compassionate observations of how the workplace can kill your spirit, how loneliness can crush you, how life just makes you lose your marbles sometimes. He is a skilled writer, and the actors are skilled too, but I’m mostly impressed with his philosophy, his wise-beyond-his-years (and he’s like my age, so I don’t know what I mean by that, because I’m certainly old enough to be wise-appropriate-for-my-age) observations. There are some episodes that are, I don’t know, subtle but sad that I want to weep after, but you can’t quite get there. It’s very sweet and everything I had hoped “The Big C” starring Laura Linney could be but wasn’t. Dude, each episode is only thirty minutes but each character’s story keeps changing and so much happens, that it feels longer (in a good way! I promise!) The ambiguous romance between Laura Dern’s character and her ex-husband, committed drug addict Levi, is particularly wild and sad.
P.S. Mike White has been talking in interviews that he thinks this will be his best writing. I really don’t think so. He keeps living, he keeps having interesting observations.
P.P.S. Laura Dern’s clothing is super cute in the show. Shout out to the costume department!