“He’s belting Streisand in perfect pitch, you’re in the kitchen dropping frying pans” – Seb Piccirillo.
Well that’s more like it. Instead of Kidding struggling to cope with the tonal juxtaposition of comedy and drama, this week it seemed to find some sure footing thanks to an emphasis on comedy and quickfire snippets of entertaining character moments. Whilst this isn’t a far cry from what the show’s been doing for the past four weeks, ‘The New You’ felt sure of itself and seemed confident in both presentation and style.
We’re back with another strong cold open too, thrown into Jeff’s childhood at an ice hockey game as Seb (Frank Langella in some wonderfully youthful makeup) laments at his son to smash another child’s face in, something which the boy finds great joy in. It’s interesting how eagerly violent young Jeff is, a whole world away from his monk-like adult counterpart, suggesting that something happened between then and now to create his altruistic lifestyle. Returning director Michel Gondry also finally lends his unique visual style to the show, with photographs used to portray young Jeff’s violence towards the other players echoing the childish sensibilities of Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time (and possibly his own mind), shrouding the blood from his attack in a charming veil of creativity that renders the severity mute. It’s interesting to note how ruthless young Seb is too, compared to his fairly monotone and professional manner as an adult. It’ll be interesting to see if this is explained or whether it’s simply the passage of time.
Back in the present though and it seems love is in the air, or maybe compassion. Immediately we’re shown Jeff (Jim Carrey, great as always) treating himself to a new pair of shoes (possibly to irk ex-wife Jill and her multiple requests for extra footwear) and taking them on a date with terminal cancer patient and newfound girlfriend Vivian (Ginger Gonzaga). The camera refuses to leave their feet under the table as they converse in the restaurant, and it’s interesting to see the characters in this way. Whilst Vivian is sure of herself and confident thanks to her terminal diagnosis, Jeff’s nervousness and timidity is fully on display through the erratic movement of his feet. Not to mention his apparent discomfort with the height of the table they’re sitting at, leading to a breakthrough in which Jeff actually screams profanity in public without reprehension. Carrey does a good job of conveying the catharsis of coarse language too, and it’s not too far out to expect Jeff to be swearing like a sailor by the time the final episode comes around.
Gonzaga’s Vivian seems to be having a positive effect on his work too, as Seb and Dee (Catherine Keener) are both delighted that the song about clouds Jeff wrote over the weekend is actually just about clouds and not ones “filled with rain and sadness”. He’s stopped bringing his negative emotions into his work and Dee holds onto this blip of positivity. Not to mention the sequence in the show of Jeff dancing behind a videotaped set of legs was utterly charming, as every segment of Puppet Time we get seems to be. I wish the show actually existed sometimes.
Of course, good things never really last and the news of a ‘Mr. Pickles on Ice’ show featuring Tara Lipinski as Mr. Pickles has Jeff aggravated to say the least. There’s a neat little visual joke of bandages appearing across both of his knuckles after a cut, another item to add to the list of Jeff’s off-screen lash outs. Though Kidding has not been shy of commenting on the state of the media industry so far, I particularly enjoyed the who’s who of a writing team Seb has enlisted for the tour’s script. Essentially a group of well-meaning individuals driven by faux-positive agendas and asserted quotas to meet, Jeff doesn’t even give them the time to finish introducing themselves and I don’t blame him.
If there’s one surprise this episode though, it’s Seb himself. I’ve perhaps lambasted him and Catherine Keener’s Dee in my previous recaps for being the weakest characters on the show, but maybe that’s because they’re constantly grouped together and instantly feel tired and generic whenever they talk about Jeff’s replacement. This week however, Seb’s emotionless words of wisdom and tolerance took on another form to try and continue the positive spike in his son’s behaviour by confronting Will about his growing drug problem. Cole Allen’s Will continues to be a strong performer within the show, apparently having chemistry with absolutely everyone he shares a scene with. As Seb picks him up on the road alongside his friend, the implementation of Will’s classmate freaking out that Will’s been abducted by an old man is a wonderful touch. Much like Seb, Will seems to have a firm grasp on the actions of those around him and seems to tolerate them all more than anything else. It of course then makes sense that the two of them spend the evening sparking up a couple of spliffs and trying to figure out why Jill (Judy Greer) and Peter (Justin Kirk) are so into ASMR videos (I don’t get it either). It’s a delightfully human moment and one that shows Seb knows how to get through to Will, or at least meet him on a surface level, by indulging him in such a vice before pulling away the marijuana and telling him he’s breaking his dad’s heart. Short and sweet, the way Seb does it best, whether he’s telling Jeff about his plans to replace him or breaking the news to Dee that she doesn’t have the capacity to be a performer on the show. His realist presentation may not be empathetic but it gets the job done.
“Sometimes I’ll blow really hard into a harmonica. That feels pretty good.” – Jeff ‘Pickles’ Piccirillo.
Contrasting the episode’s cold open, Jeff takes Vivian to the ice rink for a date, and before a conversation about how the two of them treat their darker emotions they indulge in an elongated word-less sequence of Jeff reliving his youth and passion for skating. For many people with internal struggles there’s always an activity that allows them to release themselves and forget about things for even the briefest of moments. This two minute segment which features Carrey skating and smiling, helping others to brave the ice, falling over to fits of laughter and leading a slippery conga line are so joyous in everything they represent that it’s one of my favourite sequences from the show so far. The fact that Seb doesn’t want Jeff to participate in Mr. Pickles on Ice, despite his clear talent for it, speaks for itself. I’m struggling to think of another actor who’d be able to portray the scene in the same way too, as it’s been said before Jeff’s story reflects Jim’s own in more ways than one. It’s a nice refrain before his confrontation with Will allows him to realise he has unfinished business with his father, something that I hope the show can pull off with the confidence of this week’s instalment.
We’ve been drip-fed clues about the father-son dynamic across the episode, with Seb dictating the decision to bring him on to Jeff’s ‘puppet show’ idea as long as the majority of the profit always went to charity. Jeff’s been so caught up in altruism that everything else now seems to be spilling out of him in stranger and stranger ways, whether it’s lashing out in a restaurant or using a sock puppet of his new girlfriend to pleasure himself with whipped cream (something jarringly strange that I’m still not sure worked or not in the show’s favor). His dad seems to be enemy, the one replacing him and dictating his actions, cornering him into a little box. Whether or not that’s true is debatable, but if the Jeff’s anger towards the end of the episode is anything to go by I think some fists are going to go flying.
Oh, and I’m still unsure whether the cliffhanger to the episode is metaphorical or not, but nevertheless I found myself gasping aloud at the potential ramifications. Mr. Pickles should never, ever leave the gas on.