‘Girls’ Review: “Close Up”
Over the course of the last few seasons, the twentysomething girls of Girls have hardly changed at all, which makes them more empathetic, if a little frustrating — but only because, if you’ve ever been in your early 20s, you can see some of yourself in each of them. If insanity is repeating the same behaviors/actions over and over and expecting different results, then you might consider these women (and yes, the men, too) insane. But tonight’s episode brings some real signifiers of change, even if we remain skeptical.
You always know it’s going to be a great episode of Girls when Richard Shepard is behind the camera, the same way you always knew it would be a particularly excellent episode of Breaking Bad when Michelle MacLaren or Rian Johnson took on directing duties. “Close Up” doesn’t disappoint. Each episode this season has been better than the last, and that’s impressive given how strongly the season began.
But let’s talk about changes. A recurring, comforting visual on Girls is the opening shot of two people laying in bed together. The first episode of the first season began this way, with Hannah and Marnie snuggling in Hannah’s bed, and each new opening shot of a couple sleeping in bed together typically signifies their headspace and relationship priorities, but it also tends to signal trouble ahead. This week opens with Adam and Mimi-Rose sleeping peacefully in bed together before moving into a brief montage reminiscent of an upscale department store commercial featuring tragically white, happy people. Adam makes Mimi-Rose breakfast and showers her with affection — things he never did, at least not in this way, for Hannah. The opening sequence is vibrant and light, a sharp contrast to the darker, moodier effect of Hannah’s apartment, and for good reason.
Mimi-Rose delivers a figurative slap when she casually reveals to Adam that she had an abortion the previous day, sending him into a rage because she didn’t bother to tell him or include him in the decision. She shouldn’t have to. Mimi-Rose and Adam’s argument raises the classic questions over whether a man is entitled to know about an abortion or be involved in that process at all, and Mimi-Rose — as much as we want to hate her — is so damn correct. Not only is she right about her choice to have an abortion without telling Adam, but she becomes an aspirational figure, a woman who calmly tells her boyfriend that no, she doesn’t need him, but she likes having him around. Mimi-Rose is the inverse of Hannah: she is not needy or burdened by anxiety and depression, she takes care of herself and doesn’t need a man to validate her life, her beauty or her work. Adam struggles with the concept of being with someone who doesn’t need him after his relationship with Hannah (and as Caroline filled us in previously, his mother). And as much as it pains me to say it, Mimi-Rose is perfect for him and has the power to effect positive change in Adam, regardless of the outcome of their relationship.
Adam isn’t the only one experiencing change this week: after a successful session with her therapist in which he sincerely suggests that she enjoys helping others, Hannah believes that she should pursue a more selfless career path. Hannah, like all people, presents slight variations on herself to others, so it’s unclear how honest she’s being with her therapist (or with herself) in these sessions, or if she’s merely presenting a better version of herself. As the old saying goes, “fake it ‘til you make it,” and there’s no harm in projecting the best version of yourself; it’s like training for improvement.
Of course, no one believes that Hannah genuinely wants to or is capable of seeking a career that helps others. As her friends cynically note, all selfless pursuits are inherently selfish. We help others, in part, because it makes us feel good. Is there any real harm in that, though?
“Close Up” also finally gives us the change in Shoshanna we’ve been wanting from the start: she’s been mentally broken down by a string of unsuccessful job interviews, which have taken her from peppy, optimistic Shosh to pessimistic and careless Shosh. She’s all but given up on finding a job, and has now resigned herself to marrying Jason Ritter and becoming Mrs. Tinsley Soup. I appreciate this cynical, realist version of Shoshanna more than the typically bubbly, fast-talking superficial one. That even her speech has slowed down is perhaps the biggest signifier of change.
Even Marnie has a progressive moment this week. After fighting with Desi, she realizes that maybe she just isn’t built for meaningful companionship, as if no one else on Earth has ever had that revelation when despairing over yet another problematic relationship.
As for Ray, he’s not changing, but he’s effecting change with his local government. Old Man Ray isn’t tolerating the laissez-faire and unproductive attitudes of his city officials, who are more occupied with their own petty drama than with helping — or even hearing — the people. Maybe Shosh is right, and Ray is well-suited to a political career. He does take umbrage, after all.
- “You can’t just waltz into town and eat someone else’s cereal.” I don’t know, you guys, but I don’t think Hannah is talking about cereal right now.
- Marnie and Desi have sex while listening to their own music. Marnie may be unhappy, but that’s probably because she’s shacking up with the male equivalent of herself.
- Some of the most intense arguments in history have been about Zooey Deschanel. She’s almost as effective at ending relationships as a trip to IKEA.
- Bless you, Bob Balaban.
- The only person making zero progress this week is Jessa, who is one shrug away from displacing her shoulder.
- Elijah was dating a mayoral candidate and put in a bid for 16 acres of land in Iowa before he got bored and came back to New York so these losers could make him feel better about himself again. I think all I want, more than anything, is for Elijah to run into Adam and give him some serious, Pal-worthy shade. Let me dream.
- That’s WTF host and Maron star Marc Maron as the snide city official. He’s perfect for it.