Co-created by Laura Dern, who stares in it, and Mike White, who wrote it, it is a satire shot through with poetry. "Enlightened" is to my mind the most interesting and ambitious series of the fall season. (And when I say ambitious, I mean emotionally ambitious, though it is beautiful to look upon as well.) You can't really reckon it with anything else on television. This is a show about reaching for the light, and as such it runs counter to the many cable comedies whose characters are drawn down to darkness. Amy has had a different vision: "You can be kind and you can be wise and almost whole." Her creators will throw stones in her way, gleefully, but they don't discount her experience or belittle her quest. (Indeed, withholding judgment - which Amy must learn to do, even as the viewer must - may be the real theme of this show.)
Watching a series like Enlightened makes you happy there's a home for shows that don't fit the mold -- places like HBO (in this case), Showtime, FX, AMC, etc. With its offbeat sense of humor and unwillingness to be just funny when there are so many other emotions to explore, Enlightened feels like it was pitched as a comedy then tapped into those little, personal and private moments people have when they don't fit in -- or even feel like they have a purpose -- then got shot and directed like an indie film...
On the surface, Enlightened is about Amy (Dern), a self-destructive woman at an enormous company who has a spectacular meltdown at the office (the kind you can't really recover from) then goes to Hawaii for three months of rehab and a personal journey to find herself. She swims with the turtles and comes home a changed person, talking about inner peace, positivity and all the self-help speak you can imagine.
Naturally, nobody wants to hear it, particularly her mother, Helen (Diane Ladd, in a wonderful bit of casting), who thinks it's all nonsense; nor Levi (Luke Wilson), Amy's ex-husband, who uses "a Mexican pharmacy" of drugs (cocaine, pot, pills, beer) to keep himself happy. He doesn't want to be changed or saved by Amy...
Some viewers might want Enlightened to stick with that formula. But Mike White has a real knack for connecting to the sadness in Dern's character, for dissecting how hard it is to live with your mother or deal with your ex -- and how a miscarriage and failed dreams can make Amy's attempt at reinvention and renewal, at 40, painful as well as funny. It's when Enlightened zags instead of zigs that you understand there's more at work here and the boundaries of what good writers, actors and directors can do in 30 minutes -- almost turning the episodes into short stories cobbled together for an indie film meant to be purposely vague but emotionally resonant.
Dern, Wilson, Ladd, White and Tim Sharp are excellent in this strange little vehicle. They have the range to make it more than what it appears.. humor and sadness collide and it never once feels like a traditional comedy or drama but a complex vignette -- a story more than a plot -- which HBO is letting play out in all its unexpected wonder.
"Enlightened" is to my mind the most interesting and ambitious series of the fall season" - (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 10, 2011)
"Amy's mother, Helen, is played by Dern's real-life mom, the divine Diane Ladd" - (New York Post, Oct. 9, 2011)
"Helen, played with frightful ease by Dern's real-life mother, Diane Ladd, perhaps most famous for her portrayal of the over-sexed waitress, Flo (Oscar nominee & British Academy Award Winner) in the 1974 Martin Scorsese film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." When Amy tells her mother she's "meditating on her" Helen responds with little more than a perplexed sigh!" - (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 7,2011)
"Diane Ladd, Dern's real-life mother, plays her onscreen one, and her heartbreaking performance will have your eyes welling with tears." -- (TUMBLR.com)
"And with Ladd and Dern's career high performances in the show, don't be surprised if Emmy comes a calling in 2012." -- (Venice Magazine, Sept. 2011)
"Consider Helen," one of the best episodes of T.V. I've watched all year, is not likely to unpolarize anyone. But it was also the shows finest expression yet, of the philosophy that the best way to self-understanding is empathy for others. - (Time Magazine, Dec. 12, 2011)
WELCOME TO THE NEW FACE OF TRANQUILITY - LAURA DERN
Young actors of “Grave Secrets” …
and their special notes to Diane
film to be released in 2012
Sometimes in life ......We received Real "GOLD," The alchemy gold, that's more powerful than all the money in the kingdom.
I had decided to be part of the Annette Cascone's Childrens Book's Film, Grave Secrets. It was wonderful and out of that experience; Here is my "Gold."
Diane on set of “Deadtime Stories” filming “Grave Secrets” …
produced by the Hillenbrand brothers.
film to be released in 2012
06/2011 Diane and Cast performing a reading of her musical "THE LAST OF THE BAD GIRLS"
(Book by Diane Ladd and W.J. Sibley – Music/Lyrics by Harriet Schock – Musical Arrangements by Composer, Dino Zonic – this past June 7th at New York’s famed Actors Studio for friends (a full house.)
CAST: LEFT TO RIGHT – MARK CAMPBELL as Dr. Eddie Bertini - JAMES PATRICK NELSON as Elmore, the Stage Mgr./Opera and Broadway Star, CHARLES KAREL as Myles Bingham, the Mayor of Biloxi, Ms./YOURS TRULY as Vita, a Burlesque Queen/ CONNIE STEVENS as Noreen St. Claire, a Burlesque Queen/ HARRIET SCHOCK – Music and Lyrics, BELLINA LOGAN as Monique, RUDI MACAGGI as NICK, JEROME VIDAL as Miguel, CHRIS BENNET – Chanteuse and Recording Star who filled IN for Lainie Kazan at the last minute and helped as Musical Director, next to Ms. Bennett in the picture is ERIC DONEY, Musical Director and Musical Accompanist, Next to Eric is Musical Composer, DINO ZONIC, who did the musical arrangements. (Hollywood is preparing a movie about Bosnia Born Zonic titled, “THE COMPOSER”.)
“ Diane and Composer, Dino Zonic, (about whom Hollywood is developing a film on his life, titled, “The Composer.”) Zonic did the musical arrangements on Harriet Schock’s (music and Lyrics) songs in Diane’s musical, The Last of The Bad Girls, (Book by Ladd & Sibley) of which there was a recent reading and songs performed for friends (87 guests last week) at New Yorks’ famed Actors Studio.”
2011 - Diane, Laura and Bruce get their 'Stars' on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Diane Ladd currently shooting with her daughter, Laura Dern, "Enlightened" that also stars Luke Wilson for HBO. Jonathan Demme is set to direct two episodes of the HBO comedy. The series stars Dern as Amy, a self-destructive woman who after a meltdown has a spiritual awakening and becomes determined to live an enlightened life, creating havoc at home and work. Wilson plays Amy's drug-addicted ex-husband and Diane Ladd is playing the role of Amy's mother, which seems fitting as she's Laura Dern's real-life mother. Series will air on HBO this fall.