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Kathryn Hahn Excels in 'Mrs. Fletcher' on HBO
October 27, 2019  | By David Hinckley

We've met Mrs. Fletcher before. We just haven't met Kathryn Hahn playing her.

HBO's seven-episode adaptation of Tom Perrotta's Mrs. Fletcher premieres Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET, and Hahn's title character is the best reason to watch an uneven show.

Eve Fletcher is a restless and harmlessly neurotic middle-aged single Mom who, when we meet her, is less than 24 hours from the empty nest.

Her son Brendan (Jackson White) is about to leave for college – and in his opinion, not a moment too soon.

Since Eve was divorced from her unpleasant husband, who can't even be bothered to show up and help load the car with Brendan's college stuff, she has tried very hard to take care of everything Brendan needs.

Too hard, in his estimation. Like a lot of teenagers, he's got it all figured out and doesn't need anybody.

Brendan also spends some of his time being a jerk. He treats girls like his personal toys, and he gets a kick out of bullying kids outside his cool clique in school.

Eve seems to sense that Brendan isn't the nicest kid on the block, but when you're the Mom, that's not who you mostly choose to see.

Eve has at least one close friend, Jane (Casey Wilson), who's also on the brink of an empty nest. Unlike Eve, Jane can't wait to have some freedom.

Freedom seems like something Eve only started to think about five minutes ago. But once she does, she makes up for lost time.

She signs up for a "personal essay" writing seminar, pretty much guaranteeing she'll have human interaction. Our first encounters with her, however, give no clue to exactly how much interaction she will have and how intensive it will get.

If Eve were Czechoslovakia, this would be Prague Spring.

The liberation of a middle-aged woman isn't new territory for novelists or TV show producers. Perhaps in part because of that, Mrs. Fletcher sets itself apart by juxtaposing Eve's story with Brendan's, because once he gets to school, he finds his own life – the one he had all figured out – taking turns he clearly didn't expect.

Whether this makes him a better person is one of the marquee suspense questions in the show. The Brendan we first meet sets his good-person bar low, though he doesn't seem irredeemable.

Still, our feature attraction remains Eve, and Hahn portrays her beautifully, with a mix of insecurity, adventure, doubt, resentment, resolution, and possibility, sometimes all at the same time.

Assisting Eve in her quest are, among others, her transgender writing teacher Margo (Jen Richards) and George (Domenick Lombardozzi), the son of a difficult resident at the care facility where Eve works. Also, Julian (Owen Teague), a fellow and somewhat, ahem, younger student in her writing seminar.

Not surprisingly, Eve stumbles into a number of awkward situations on her new journey. Comedies these days tend to be like that. Maybe comedies forever have been like that. The awkwardness has just gotten a little more explicit and sometimes involves less clothing.

On a bittersweet note, Brendan's college roommate, Zach, is played by Cameron Boyce, the teen star who suffered a fatal epileptic seizure in July. For the record, Zach is fun.

So, at many points, is Mrs. Fletcher.

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