New from Netflix is “Grace and Frankie,” a witty, mostly original comedy series about aging two wives whose husbands of 40-something years announce they have found someone else: each other.
Grace Hanson (Jane Fonda) has never been particularly close to Frankie Bergstein (Lily Tomlin). They’re both in their 70s, but they have taken separate paths. Grace is a tight ass; Frankie is a dippy hippie. But their husbands are law partners, good providers and the fathers of their children. And now the ladies have one more thing in common: they both have been dumped. So, they throw in with one another. (But not in that special sense.)
Indeed, they are the odd couple. (In the Neil Simon sense, which is why we say it’s “mostly original” as distinct from “utterly original.”)
Grace is immaculate, coiffed. She likes vodka, tailored outfits and tidiness. Frankie looks like an unmade bed. She likes pot, Buddhist chants and First Peoples rituals. Besides a house, they share only their common rage. And sometimes that’s enough.
Sol Bergstein (Sam Waterston) and Robert Hanson (Martin Sheen) are giggly in love. They cuddle in bed all giddy, kiss on the lips and provide one another with affection and support. Their lives have come together just as their ex-wives’ lives are coming apart.
So that’s the picture. Add to this living diorama online dating for the older woman, a rakish ex-con, adult children who are variously in recovery, wounded, icily unsympathetic and worldly, canceled credit cards, going back to work and the gentlemen preparing for their marriage.
Too much sitcom? Yes, a little too much. But the fine acting of the four principals and the occasional poignant epiphany of a reeling wife or a wistful husband remind you that you’re in the company of seasoned professionals abetted by an excellent team of writers. About once per episode there’s an interval of deep sadness — of loss — that whisks you out of comedy and into the realm of personal pain. It is when “Grace and Frankie” blends human drama with human folly that the series hits its highest notes. These are the intervals in which a character’s fresh realization is too tragic to be funny but too funny to be tragic.
P.S. Occasional use of bad language … F-word, etc.