Still running through things I wrote months ago to post it somewhere online, here’s a very bland review I wrote for a website that never ended up existing about the show The United States of Tara.
When it was announced that Juno writer and former stripper Diablo Cody would get her own television show, people were excited. I never lived in a home with Showtime, HBO, or any of those rich people channels so my reaction was pretty neutral. I had heard of her show The United States of Tara, but never really knew anything about it. Based on a recommendation from a friend who said she enjoyed it, I decided to give this show a try.
Starring Toni Collette of The Sixth Sense fame (I’m such a bum that is the only thing I knew about her) as Tara, The United States of Tara is about a mother and wife with dissociative identity disorder, the polite way of saying “bat shit crazy.” She assumes the roles of three other people. There’s Alice who behaves like a mother from a 1950s television show, T who is a slutty teenage girl with a foul mouth, and Buck who is a beer and gun loving Vietnam veteran.
The first season is about Tara and her family’s dealings with her disorder. She has a supportive blue collar husband named Max, an occasionally troublesome yet independent daughter named Kate, and a semi-openly gay son named Marshall. Each of her personalities, or alters as they are called in the show, brings differently problems. The family’s job is to love their mother no matter what and to help her solve these issues. What else is family for? Oh right, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
Another important part in Tara’s life is her sister Charmaine who later on in the series takes on a bigger role. At first she is unsupportive of Tara which seems ridiculous because sisters never disagree about anything! I would know. Both of my sisters hate me.
At times this show can be pretty funny. At other times it can be a little too obsessed with its own worth. During many of the scenes it seemed to me like it was nothing more than Toni Collette showcasing different characters she could play. The character Tara was not only the least interesting despite having this unique disease; she was also one I felt the least empathy for. She reminds me too much of a crazy person telling people she is not crazy. She is crazy. She thinks she’s a Vietnam veteran. She was maybe four when the war happened.
The other characters on the show make up for the lack of love I have for Tara. Max shows us what a good husband is. His love for Tara is so unconditional he doesn’t even have sex with her when she transitions into her alters. I feel bad for him at times. He looks reminds me of a defeated man who knows he made a mistake. Patton Oswalt is his best friend though. That’s one thing he has going for him.
My favorite characters on the show however are the children. Kate is constantly having some sort of trouble with someone or somewhere. Her adventures entertained me throughout. From getting her first job and dealing with sexual harassment to making strange videos on the Internet for gifts I fell in love with Kate’s sassy lifestyle. Oh and she’s hot and I hope 18 when this was filmed. Marshall is not too far off either. He’s new to being gay (I hope that didn’t sound intolerant) and watching him fumble through the dating scene is fun to watch. They may be smarter than most kids with wittier dialogue, but there are way too many pieces of them that are genuine to reality.
I would classify The United States of Tara as a quirky comedy. What else would you expect from Diablo Cody? At times the show can be pretty dark, dealing with subject matter such as rape and molestation. I swear though, it’s pretty much a comedy. The characters are insecure, have awkward moments, and all of this happens while the mother they all love cannot go a day without becoming someone else. Truly this show is about a crazy loving family more than anything else.
The United States of Tara is for anyone who grew up in a dysfunctional household and wish there was a camera there to capture the magic that unfolded.