Though Juno Temple is charming as always, the 'Mr. Corman' episode centered on her is awkward and uncomfortable.
- 🍎 Juno Temple's performance is both winning and spiky.
- 🍎 Her chemistry with Gordon-Levitt is clear.
- 🍎 Getting to meet Mr. Corman's ex lives up to the hype.
- 🍎 Josh Corman's attitude remains unpleasant and confrontational.
- 🍎 The big conversation with Josh's ex's mom is awkward and strange.
- 🍎 Knowing why Josh is how he is doesn't excuse his behavior.
This post contains spoilers for Mr. Corman
Check out our last review here.
For five episodes, Mr. Corman has hinted at the dark event that must have shaped much of the misanthropic worldview of our eponymous lead character. We know that the dour Josh Corman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) not only used to be a musician, but he used to be in a committed relationship with the musically gifted Megan (Juno Temple). Up until the events of “Funeral”, we’ve only seen Megan via photographs, but as I noted in a past recap, you don’t hire Juno Temple to just show up in a photograph, especially when she’s also currently spending time as one of the regular cast members on the exemplary Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso. It’s no surprise that Temple finally appears in “Funeral”, just as it is no surprise that “Funeral”, another episode with a limited scope, is another example of how stridently unpleasant this show can be.
Following up on the climactic events of last week’s episode, “Action Adventure”, “Funeral” deals primarily with Josh attending the funeral of his acquaintance Dax (Bobby Hall), who died suddenly after he, Josh, and Victor (Arturo Castro, sadly absent in this episode) got into a fight with some jerks at the end of a costume party. From what little we hear, and saw in the previous episode, the death occurred simply because of a traumatic head injury. Josh, who flew back to his hometown for the funeral, stumbles through the vagaries of acting sad enough; it seems much more likely that he’s there simply because he was present for some of the last hours of Dax’s life, quite by accident. (Victor, who was also there, only shows up here via a text message where he asks how things are going.)
Megan, who not only knew Dax but only met Josh because the now-dead man introduced the two of them, is also there and also seems unsure of how to act. But after Josh has yet another grim, anxiety-induced vision of a fiery meteor heading straight for him from space, and runs out of the wake after the funeral, he sees Megan and they begin to have a tentative conversation. The bulk of the 26-minute episode focuses on the two of them, as they seem to ease back into their happier days as a couple and creative pair. Throughout the day, Megan also shows off her unexpected, sometimes jarring personality; as she all but drags Josh to a local grocery store to help her shop for her mother (Lucy Lawless), Megan briefly breaks down in tears thinking of Dax. When the tears stop, a stranger asks if Josh is bothering her, and Megan confirms as much only to pull out the rug and laugh in the stranger’s face for believing her story. It’s...a weird moment.
But weirder and more uncomfortable still is what happens when Megan and Josh, with the latter awaiting a flight back to L.A., go to Megan’s mother Carol’s house. Carol and her husband Frank (Andrew Grainger) are happy to see Josh at first, and it’s quite clear that Carol wishes that her daughter had stayed with, and eventually married, the blander and more stable Josh than pursued her musical talents. If that pushiness wasn’t awkward enough, it drives Megan to shout at her mother and hole up in her room. And if that wasn’t enough, Carol compounds the awkwardness while talking to Josh, when she vomits up some self-made fruit dip (an unhealthy mix of Velveeta and Cool Whip). After he helps her clean up, Josh checks in on Megan, where he promptly a) misreads their connection that day as a sign of a new romance by trying and failing to kiss her and b) demands to know why things ended between them.
By this point in Mr. Corman, it’s easy enough to know why Josh and Megan fell out, if only because he’s a condescending, snide, self-involved dunce. But there’s more to it than that (although that no doubt helps): Megan says that when Josh chose teaching over music, he belittled her for not following a more stable path. And in the last moments, when she chides him for thinking she’s not going to "do" it (AKA become successful), he puts it more simply: “I don’t think anyone can do it.”
What a charming fellow! Just two episodes ago, we were able to all but ignore Josh in favor of his far more compelling roommate Victor, and this week, we don’t even get to see Victor for a second. With the caveat that I’ve yet to watch the other episodes (they’re all available on the Apple TV+ site for critics, but I’m choosing to watch each episode, then write each recap, instead of diving all in), I have to wonder if this is the point in the season where Mr. Corman shifted its production location from Los Angeles to New Zealand. It’s not just that Temple is notably not American (a fact that does become hard to ignore in a few of her line readings), but that Lucy Lawless, who delivers as good a performance as possible here as Carol, is from the Australia/New Zealand area. And more importantly, though the funeral takes place in Josh’s hometown, since Victor was present for the last hours of Dax, it’s kind of weird that he’s not there and there’s not really any attempt to explain why.
I say all of this because I’m still waiting for Mr. Corman to become tolerable again, if not actually entertaining. The two previous episodes, for varying reasons, had glimmers of hope. Here, it’s at least enjoyable to watch Juno Temple playing someone so radically different from Keeley on Ted Lasso, in temperament, accent, and personality. The early stretches of the episode allow Temple to seem perfectly empathetic and quirky in a believable way; when Josh hints at the anxiety he’s beset by, her reaction is kind and caring. In that same vein, “Funeral” could be worse in terms of depicting a back-biting ex-couple than it is -- it’s only in the last few minutes that Josh turns scornful. But those last few minutes are reminiscent of the premiere episode and his cruel treatment of a one-night stand gone sour.
The question remains: why are we spending time with this guy? Josh doesn’t seem remotely closer to being better or more well-adjusted. In point of fact, it feels like the show is getting closer to his side of things, and that’s just all the more irksome. Mr. Corman continues to drift along, and to its credit, each episode has been surprising in one way or another. (This one, to note, mostly eschews fantasy sequences at all unless you count that doom-and-gloom meteor in Josh’s mind.) But those brief surprises are too few and scant. Four episodes to go in this season. Can it improve?
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