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Amazon's 'I Love Dick' Explores Marriage, Art and Attraction
May 12, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Up for another round of “No, no, what do you really think and how do you really feel?”

Then you’ll want to spend Friday diving into Amazon’s new I Love Dick, an adaptation of Chris Kraus’s satiric 1997 novel.

With a wonderful cast led by Kathryn Hahn, Kevin Bacon (with Hahn, top) and Griffin Dunne, the streaming service’s latest psychological dramedy explores marriage, sexuality, art and attraction, rarely in that order.

Hahn and Dunne (right) play aspiring filmmaker Chris and her successful professor husband Sylvere, New Yorkers who see themselves living in a world of honored academia and sophisticated art. 

They love each other, but the marriage has accumulated some dust, partly because Chris feels she has never accomplished anything in the film world that would get her out of Sylvere’s shadow.

Soon after she gets word that her latest film has been accepted into the Venice Film Festival, which could be her breakthrough, he is scheduled to begin a residency fellowship at an art colony in Marfa, Texas.

So they sublet the apartment and drive to Marfa, from whence Chris plans to jet off to Venice while Sylvere has his residency.

Unfortunately, she failed to secure the rights to a song that’s a cornerstone of the film. So the film is dead and she’s screwed, meaning she’s stuck tagging along with Sylvere in Marfa.

That’s harsh, dude.

Then she meets Dick (Bacon).

Dick Jarrett had enough success as an artist to launch this prestigious program in Marfa, and presumably part of his attraction is that he talks about art in terms of, say, how you really feel.

What he really feels about Chris is that she’s a loser. Soon after they meet, he turns rude and condescending.

Superficially, she seems to react in the rich tradition of cinema and TV women from You’ve Got Mail to Fifty Shades of Grey. She finds Dick wildly, irresistibly attractive, sexually and otherwise.

Just when we’re thinking we’ve seen this movie before, however, Chris’s apparent masochism becomes something rather different.

TV series creators Sarah Gubbins and Jill Soloway, with an all-female writing staff that includes Kraus herself, aren’t in the easy submission game.

Chris, the character, begins writing letters to Dick about, yes, how she really feels. That includes intense sexual attraction and a whole lot of ruminations on life.

Her initial idea with the Dick letters is that she will never send them. She sees them more as personal art, often almost stream of consciousness, galloping off into psycho-art questions like what it really means to write a letter.

Soon Chris realizes these letters are pretty good writing, and that, in fact, she may be better at writing than she is at making films.

So naturally, the letters do not remain private. She shares, which has a profound impact on everything and everyone from her marriage to her career to the other people in the residency, to Dick himself.

It’s amusing at times, and provocative at times because I Love Dick often explores the practice of contemporary navel-gazing by satirizing it. 

So there are several valid reasons to watch I Love Dick, including just wanting to see Bacon in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat or just wanting to see Hahn do anything.

There are also moments when viewers will understand why “I Love Dick”, the book, got that cult tag. Whatever its tone, its core audience will likely be people who are interested in deep conversations about the real nature of human relationships.

If what you really feel is that you like them, this incarnation is well played.

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