THE SERIES “I Love Dick”
WHEN | WHERE Starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Chris (Kathryn Hahn) is a New York filmmaker who goes to Marfa, Texas, where her academic culture-critic spouse, Sylvére (Griffin Dunne), has a writing residency at a local arts institute, run by a sculptor-turned-professor named Dick (Kevin Bacon). Obsessed with this lonesome, high-plains artist, Chris writes him letters — lots of them. Turns out Marfa is filled with lots of other interesting artists, including Toby (India Menuez), Paula (Lily Mojekwu) and Devon (Roberta Colindrez). It’s produced by Jill Soloway (“Transparent”) and based on Chris Kraus’ novel, which was set in California.
MY SAY Like so many successes, “I Love Dick” came from failure. Kraus began writing the letters that would become the novel as a form of absolution after the rejection of one of her films. (Yes, there is a real-life Dick.) As she explained to the webzine ArtNet a few years ago, “Life [had] put me in an abject position, so I thought I might as well take advantage of it . . . if no one cares what you have to say, then you can say anything.”
The result was a post-feminist anti-hero. Chris was free to screw up her own life, wallow in her obsessions, devolve into her own beautiful mess. Male anti-heroes were old hat, but Chris was new hat, indeed. So is Soloway: It was inevitable that these two would find each other.
Soloway, who adapted, and Sarah Gubbins, who wrote the eight-episode teleplay, have stripped Chris even further down to the bare essentials. By setting this in Marfa — a real town in high desert country, about 200 miles as the buzzard flies from the Rio Grande — they’ve swept away all clutter. The cowboys are laconic. The sky is endless. The beauty is desolate. This is where anti- heroes flourish, and where no one will hear anything you say.
It’s also an especially funny place to work through an erotic obsession. Marfa, population 1,765 (est. 2014)? Really?
Chris is in a bad way when she rolls into town with Sylvére. “You make a movie and it’s your whole SOUL,” she tells Devon, “and suddenly it’s compared to every other movie that was ever made, and something that was so big becomes the tiniest Russian nesting doll, like a piece of sand, and it blows away.”
Then she meets Dick. “I forgot what lust felt like until I met you,” she later confides in one of many “Dear Dick” letters. “You swaggered, you took your time, like the whole world was waiting for you.”
If Bacon’s Dick is Gary Cooper — and a prickly, humorless one — then Dunne’s Sylvére is a Woody Allen character — a pretentious, patronizing one — trapped in the wrong show. “I came here to write about the Holocaust,” he explains to Toby. “There’s something new afoot, and I’m going to find it.” He’s also turned on by Chris’ letter-writing campaign. You can see where this is heading.
“Dick” isn’t the paradigm shift that “Transparent” was, nor the shocker it might have been 20 years ago. The patriarchy it assails has been humbled, while jerks like Dick and Sylvére are basically movie/TV stock villains (or clowns).
But Hahn is perfect as someone whose tragedy — and comedy — is that she can’t see them for who they really are. There’s also a terrific music track, courtesy of Cayucas, Johnny Thunders and Public Image Ltd.
BOTTOM LINE Absorbing in parts, tedious in others, but Hahn is great.