TV Review: Laura Dern Returns to Carry HBO’s Clever ‘Enlightened’

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
No votes yet

CHICAGO – The season premiere of HBO’s “Enlightened,” directed by the great Nicole Holofcener (“Please Give,” “Lovely & Amazing”) is a stunner. With a great script by co-star Mike White and one of the best single performances by Laura Dern to date, it perfectly captures the current state of so many people — untrusting of authority, looking for something to make their life matter, and deluding themselves into self-importance. I was a bit uncertain about “Enlightened” in season one, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, but I found the second season premiere, well, pardon me, enlightening. Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

Amy Jellicoe (Dern) has gone from someone just looking to stabilize her emotional landscape to someone looking for more than just tranquility. She is one of those people who looks at everyone around her and knows they’re blind and miserable. She is the only one who knows the truth. She’s gone from enlightened to empowered. She will see the lies of the company for which she works. She will know happiness. Everyone else will live their boring lives and she will do something crucial and vital to human existence. And that’s not an exaggeration. She uses phrases like “change the world” and believes she exists in a place where only she knows that of which we are capable.

Photo credit: HBO

What a part for Laura Dern. The blend of naivety, delusion, and honest emotion is amazing. Dern has a scene near the end of the first episode that should at least garner her an Emmy nod. I find the new Amy so fascinating because I wonder how many people out there can relate. There are surely millions who dream of different lives but how many do it with a smile and a platitude like dear Amy? She’s the kind of person who thinks she’s supportive when she’s merely self-centered. She thinks she’s pushing people up but she really just wants praise for doing so. She’s a narcissist who’s also a good person, which is more possible than Hollywood typically thinks. She’s easily one of the most fascinating characters on TV and Dern totally nails the role. White is also quite good and Dermot Mulroney makes a stellar addition to the cast this season, an improvement over Luke Wilson in season one, who does return effectively in the third episode even if his character still leaves me more distracted than excited. Diane Ladd and the always-hysterical Jason Mantzoukas deserve praise as well.

Photo credit: HBO

I will say that the second episode is a bit of a dip in quality. I worry that the show too often spins its wheels and a lot of the same notes are hit in episode two as they were more effectively in episode one. However, the drop-off isn’t steep enough to detract from what works about the show, one that looks like it could easily be one of the most interesting programs of early 2013. And the third episode of the season, featuring an appearance by Christopher Abbott of “Girls,” is a mini-masterpiece. Later episodes in the 8-episode season are directed by Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”) and David Michod (“Animal Kingdom”).

See how we got here with the first season release of “Enlightened,” just released on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO. The company continues their pattern of great HD transfers even if it is a bit disappointing the show doesn’t get the lavish treatment of some of their recent releases like “Girls” and “Boardwalk Empire”. Where’s my Ultraviolet copy?

An HBO original series from creators Mike White and Laura Dern, Enlightened stars Dern in her Golden Globe - winning role as Amy Jellicoe, who comes home to California after a stay at a holistic treatment facility, the result of having a mental breakdown at work triggered by her self-destructive ways. Amy returns to her old life with a new cultivated approach and perspective, involving daily meditation and inner healing. She moves in temporarily with her somewhat estranged mother (Diane Ladd, Dern’s real-life mom), and reconnects with her ex-husband, Levi (Luke Wilson), who is struggling with his own demons and addictions. Amy is rehired at Abaddonn Industries, but assigned to a demeaning position. There Amy uncovers corporate abuse and corruption that fuels her quest to make a change in the lives of others. But although Amy wants to be an “agent of change” in the world, those who know her best are skeptical of her latest intentions.

Special Features:
o Audio Commentaries
o Inside the Episodes

“Enlightened” stars Laura Dern, Mike White, Diane Ladd, Timm Sharp, Jason Mantzoukas, Michaela Watkins, and Dermot Mulroney. It returns on HBO on January 13, 2013 at 8:30pm CST and the first season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 8, 2013. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing


  • YippieFest 2020 Logo

    CHICAGO – It’s coming! YippieFest 2020 – joining the virtual and online revolution during these particular times – is set for August 22nd and 23rd. Details to come on schedules and times, but the whole fest can be downloaded for FREE on those dates through TWITCH streaming service. Click here for more details.

  • Space Force

    CHICAGO – Seemingly ripped from the headlines, by way of “Dr. Strangelove,” the new Netflix TV series “Space Force” debuted on May 29th, 2020. Patrick McDonald of reviewed the series during the Eddie Volkman Show (Star 96.7 FM in Joliet, Illinois) on June 5th, 2020.

Advertisement on Twitter

archive Top Ten Discussions