Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011


Personal growth isn't easy, so maybe it's fitting that a series about it shouldn't be either. At first blush, Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern) is easier to gawk at than to like. A corporate executive who suffers a nervous breakdown after an affair, she has an epiphany at a pricey therapy retreat, then returns to her old life, demoted at the office, living with her mom (Dern's actual mother, Diane Ladd) and trailing passive-aggressive spirituality. At first, Amy seems so deluded and self-righteous that you want to smack her into a shivasana pose. But Enlightened, written by Mike White (The Good Girl), isn't interested in mocking easy New Age targets or valorizing Amy. Instead, it takes her journey seriously, if sometimes seriously enough to laugh at it. Subtle and gorgeously directed (by guests including Jonathan Demme, Miguel Arteta and Nicole Holofcener), it's a darkly funny, empathetic story of a flawed woman learning that sometimes a journey of a thousand miles begins with a good sharp kick in the ass. (HBO)