Pushing boundaries - not just of television but of its star - seems to be a focus of Louis C.K.'s series Louie this season. And intense women. Borderline impossible women. Of course there was Melissa Leo as the extremely rude and horny loud mouth who bashes Louie's head into a car window before shoving it in her crotch. Before that, there was Gaby Hoffman as an overworked, neurotic and complaining woman with whom Louie couldn't stand sitting to have a real meal. Two clichés, played by talented women and written and shot well enough that the predictability of personality types turned amusing and slightly surprising. The break we got was in the episode Miami where the unmanageable women get replaced by a cool, relaxed Cuban lifeguard - who saves his life (kind of) without asking or demanding anything in return. Clearly Louie's got a complicated relationship with the opposite sex.
Last week, we saw him falling for, being charmed by, and eventually wooing a bookstore clerk played by the lovely Parker Posey. They were set for a date and that's what we got in Daddy's Girlfriend, Part II. And we sure did get a date, with all the twists and turns and zaniness of those typical movie and TV first dates. But this one doesn't end with either a rejection or an invitation inside, but rather stops as another mood shift takes place and Louie is left questioning where he stands and if there is indeed a future there or not.
As soon as all the warning signs came of Posey's obvious emotional disturbances (being rejected drinks at a bar because of a prior incident and being too eagerly revealing about personal issues), I started to feel a bit disappointed. I wanted this to work and for Louis C.K. to write a reasonable female character, instead of another crazy one. But things get better and Posey's version of "crazy" is more adventurous and free-spirited than what would require prescription drugs (although therapy may still be in order). In a great, indulgent scene, she takes him to a Jewish deli and they gorge themselves on delicacies like cured fish and chocolate rugula.
In a less convincing scene, she interrogates a homeless man to whom Louie has left his pickles in order to help him in some way. It turns out he hallucinates snakes and needs drugs to make him better so that he can work. Louie buys him the drugs and they drop him off at a Comfort Inn. This entire exchange seemed the most out of place, for me, but it made sense within the framework of this woman pushing Louie beyond his comfort limits. He's okay dropping off some pickles but not with actually speaking with the man. She gets him to engage beyond what he's used to. Afterwards, she does the same but with physical exertion, forcing Louie to climb many, many flights of stairs.
Imitating an over-pumped fitness coach, she yells in his face for him to keep pushing and breathing and making his way up the stairs. Out of breath and coughing, he does finally make it up and they share a sweet moment on the roof, with her confessing that she's having a really nice time - and that's why she doesn't want to jump, which is, in turn, why she's not afraid to sit on the ledge. Louie, on the other hand, stands back and refuses to get close to the edge. More metaphors (they abound in this episode). He'll have to stop being afraid he'll fail (jump) so that he can enjoy being on that border between reason (life) and chaos (death). Or something like that. But there is something true and beautiful about this revelation. This is an uptight guy, despite being a comedian. Yet he wants to learn to let go and be freer, inviting in the insanity that may ensue around him and the intensity that may invade his comfy little life. The Cuban lifeguard relaxes him, showing him a lighter, more music-filled side of a town he once hated and only saw as a haven for superficial beach bodies. Leo made him give head on a first date. Hoffman forced him to just deal with a relationship not working out and ending it before it went on an unnecessary length of time.
On his own, he bought a motorcycle to ride dangerously through the streets. He has an accident and winds up in the hospital. But it was worth it - wasn't it?
Is Posey worth it? She kills the role and the episode. Louis C.K. shoots her like a man in love and in awe, and we get more of this in the credit sequences with close-ups of her expressive face in black and white, like in a silent film. No words, just beauty and charm.
Louie is a toned-down, subtle character who also nonetheless also has a very expressive face. But Posey's is exaggerated and extreme, the qualities of a comedic star. When she says to him, "You're fat and I have no tits. Let's be honest," she could have easily continued to say, "But, despite this, we're both on television and successful stars." And it's because of that honesty and willingness to embrace those faults that they shine so brightly. But does it mean they should go on a second date? I'm not sure. I'd love to see more of Posey and how their relationship develops, but I also wouldn't be surprised if she disappeared- her solemn expression at the end of the episode suggesting that finally giving her real name is her form of goodbye.