Laura Dern stars in the new HBO series “Enlightened”. The actress also signed as co-writer and co-creator of the show alongside Mike White. The comedy drama was described after its premiere as either a truly black comedy or a rather pointless historic drama. At first glance the show seems to build up towards a satire of the American life style populated by a tone of feel good, self-help patterns set by social culture icons such as Oprah. At a closer look though “Enlightened” stands out as more or less embracing the very culture it was supposed to satire, since the show counts serenity clichés after clichés: sunsets, fire on the beach, blue waters, turtles floating peacefully.
The first scene of the premiere reveals a grief moment, as Amy Jellicoe, Dern’s character – a health and beauty executive from Los Angeles, finds herself transferred to another department. The drama is less created by the transfer as it is by its author, none other than Amy’s love affair, Damon the boss. The first scene finds the main character in a bathroom, where she cries out of control, messing up her make up. In a scene that yells “Fatal Attraction”, Dern flies out the door of the bathroom in a determined pursuit to find and confront Damon. She catches up with him near an elevator and hastily opens its doors.
After her breakdown, Amy leaves the city and joins a Hawaiian serenity retreat for three months. Here come in place all the serenity clichés meant to come as a contrast once the main character returns to the foggy, crowded Los Angeles determined to get her job back. The now enlightened Amy moves back to live with her mom.
It is not until she threatens the HR representative with a law suit for ill termination of her contract for mental health issues that Dern’s character manages to get her old job back. The company is “subtly” named Abaddonn (hell in Hebrew). Her next stop is at her ex-husband to drop off a self-help book “Flow Through Your Rage” where she becomes yet again disgusted with his life style.
This is the queue for returning to her old obsession with Damon. Even though the whole mental status is painted in a self-induced tranquil approach, the serenity evaporates in the next scene when Amy drives her car and parks it outside her former lover’s house. He sprints out of the house to chase away the mistress who could distress his wife only to see her dashing off.
Whether the show will serve its purpose and manage to get the audience to cheer for its main character, who after the premiere is still vaguely drifting between heroine and mentally unstable, is yet to be seen. The contrasting scenes that get the public from serene, frozen in their own time and space moments to stir up, melodramatic ones fail to reveal a consistent vision at play as they did in previous David Lynch productions such as “Blue Velvet” or “Lost Highway”.