Fleishman Is in Trouble Review 2022 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
November 28, 2022

Fleishman Is in Trouble Review 2022 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online

Fleishman Is in Trouble
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Fleishman Is in Trouble Review 2022 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online

“Fleishman Is in Trouble” — the 2019 novel by Taffy Brodesser-Akner and the new television series adaptation Brodesser-Akner has created — operates a bit like a reverse “Gone Girl.”

In both cases, the disappearance of a woman from the family home amid marital discord presents the left-behind husband a mystery to solve, and memories to sift through. But in “Gone Girl” (both the Gillian Flynn novel and the David Fincher-directed film), a story of extraordinary specificity opens out, in the telling, into a story with contours that reveal universal truths about marriage. “Fleishman,” by contrast, announces itself as a document of contemporary marriage early on; as the story unwinds and reverses itself, though, its details and the manner of its telling come to leave the viewer on the outside. Especially in FX’s adaptation, this property is a narrative machine with ingenuity that can tend to be its own reward.

To wit: It’s a clever device to have the story of a marriage’s breakdown told by a third party. Libby (Lizzy Caplan) is a men’s-magazine journalist (just like Brodesser-Akner, who has written for GQ and, more recently, The New York Times Magazine); underemployed and somewhat lost in the suburbs of New York City, she devotes her energies to narrativizing the divorce of her old friend Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg) and his wife, Rachel Fleishman (Claire Danes). Libby’s open schedule and her eye for detail allow her to document, first, Toby’s view of things, as a spurned and maltreated spouse who always tried his best. Then, eventually, we see Rachel’s perspective of breakdowns domestic and personal, which, if not calling Toby’s honesty into question, at least complicates what’s come before.

Brodesser-Akner is credited as writer of seven of the series’ eight episodes; Libby’s overarching gaze is that of a scrupulous cultural observer, just as the real-life reporter is. The world is carefully drawn, as Toby and Rachel have a perfectly frustrating amount of money and power: Respectively a liver surgeon and a theatrical talent agent, the pair have the bare minimum of access to see how the truly comfortable live. For Toby, this suggests that, for the sake of the two children he hopes not to see grow spoiled, the family has come perhaps too far. For Rachel, it’s a sign that they have many miles to go. This mixed-ambition marriage makes no one happy, least of all the kids (Meara Mahoney Gross and Maxim Swinton). The story is at its best when depicting the very real anxieties both partners have around their children — Toby’s, that he’s losing them, and Rachel’s, that they’ve made her lose herself.

But the universe of the show can feel small and sour. Texture that was present in the novel feels somewhat light here: The hospital becomes a viper’s nest of rivals who never feel remotely as real as does Toby, while we don’t get a sense of what about her work Rachel loves beyond that it makes her a big shot. (Similar questions of differing levels of professional desire were explored in the 2019 film “Marriage Story” in ways that were somewhat kinder to the characters.) Eisenberg (endlessly relatable in terror and in petty rage) and especially Danes are excellent — but the script seems to seek opportunities to let the actors off the hook, which isn’t necessary. We know that Danes is capable of playing a woman questioning her own reality. Libby narrating every step of her rise and fall is a neat trick, but subtracts chances for Danes to show us who Rachel is on her own terms, unmediated.

Danes gets us there: Rachel is fueled by a fear that she is unlovable, which, in that funny irony about fears, leads her to make choices that marginalize herself further and further. And for all that I found her incursions into the Fleishmans’ drama eventually obtrusive, Caplan’s Libby, figuring out where she fits into a life she chose by fits and starts, makes for a surprisingly apt interlocutor. (One might think the two women shared relatively little but for Toby, but one can find some surprising bedfellows in one’s isolation.) This show is about middle age, and presents a set of concerns that I, a married parent who was slightly shocked at first to see actors I consider my near-contemporaries playing married parents, am quickly beginning to understand in a new way. In its themes, it resonates: The sense that even the choices one retrospectively would do over are ones that have limited future options is an essential part of the human condition.

But “Fleishman Is in Trouble” suggests that realization can also be a part of the creative process: The series has an unsettled energy about what story it wants to tell. It refuses to be pinned down, even as viewers’ attention may wander. Toby and Rachel both are, eventually, revealed to be suffering beyond measure and in parallel, their separate private griefs encasing each in a bubble practically from the first. Both of these stories are told well, by a shrewd and empathetic voice — well, two such voices. But one returns to “Gone Girl,” and the praise it rightly got for encapsulating modern marriage: The challenge “Fleishman” sets for itself, and one it finally cannot overcome, is that one never believes that its two leads would have been married in the first place.

Fleishman Is in Trouble Review 2022 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online