Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Treatment: Season One

I've had season one of In Treatment sitting on my movie shelf for a little over a year. When I first tried to watch the series, I only got through Week One (5 episodes). I was intrigued by a couple of the patients, hated two of the patients, and adored Day 5 (Dianne Wiest as the therapist to Paul). The series contained a different dialogue. A short, raw, focused way of talking. The way one could imagine a very healthy therapy session progressing. On the other hand, this wore me out. Five different therapy sessions a week. Spread out over nine weeks. I put the series on hold for a bit. Returning a little over a month ago.

The first five weeks of the series are very strong. The patients grow and back peddle on a pretty realistic level (at least, in my opinion of therapy). And, from time to time, Paul's (Byrne's character) personal life is brought into view. We see glimpses of struggles with his wife, and two of his three children. The patients all remain complicated. And, as I've said, Paul's sessions with Gina (Wiest) are painfully uncomfortable and beautifully acted.

After week five, Paul crosses a line with a patient. Then, Paul does not follow protocol with another patient. I start to wonder if he's a bad therapist? Is he too caring? Or, am I demanding something too rigid and unrealistic from this character? Also, Paul's visits with Gina start to become marriage counseling sessions (Paul's wife joins three of the sessions). While these sessions aren't boring, they show a little crack in the writing. The cliches start to break through the series.

The strength of this series? The slice of life aspect. We are given 22 minute sessions. Five different sessions over the course of nine weeks. And, in the end, no one is really cured. Answers are never really stated. This is a series playing by a different set of rules. It isn't totally caught up in the outline of your typical drama series (although, a couple plot lines do go too far).

I would not compare the series to Mad Men in the sense of style, only in the sense of themes. These shows really explore our purpose, our motives, our needs. In Treatment left me exhausted after each viewing.


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