Screensavors: California redux

Sex. Booze. Kid. Sex. Drugs. Booze. Ex-girlfriend. Sex. Work. Sex. Sex. Sex. This is the life of Hank Moody in Californication

By TODD ORODENKER
May 29, 2008 15:24
3 minute read.

Sex. Booze. Kid. Sex. Drugs. Booze. Ex-girlfriend. Sex. Work. Sex. Sex. Sex. This is the life of Hank Moody. In Californication, David Duchovny takes us on an emotional journey through the tumultuous life of Moody, a man drowning in a sea of endless one-night stands and poor decisions made under the influence. But it's what lies beyond Hank's actions, beyond his nightly escapades and thoughtless ways. It's the sweet relationship he has with his daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin), the way he genuinely and truly loves her, and wishes he was a better person and role model for her. It's the way he still yearns after his ex-girlfriend, Karen (Natascha McElhone), the little flirtatious comments he makes and the way he always seems to involve himself in everything she's doing. It's the solid friendship he has with his agent, Charlie (Evan Handler), who himself has a laundry-list of (very adult) problems into which he constantly draws Hank. While the show offers plenty of nudity and some over-the-top bedroom moments (let's hold off on specifics, this is a family paper), the core of the show is Hank. And it's helpful that Duchovny, best known as Agent Mulder on The X-Files, delivers a spectacular and multi-layered performance. He's already won a Golden Globe for the role, with an Emmy nomination expected later this summer. But shallow recognition from Hollywood elites aside, it's the fact that Duchovny still makes us care about and root for Hank that makes this show work. With any less of a performance, Californication probably never would have gotten made. But the human elements the audience sees in Moody, the fact that despite all of his shortcomings and all of his screw-ups and all of his immaturity, there is a good person underneath who is trying like hell to be a better person. All of this combined gives the audience reason to invest in this character. That's why we root for him to win back Karen from her fiancé Bill (Damian Young) and that's why we forgive him for sleeping with Bill's sixteen year-old daughter (Madeline Zima), even though he didn't know who or how old she was when they first met. Created by Tom Kapinos (whose only previous work was on Dawson's Creek), the show also does an admirable job of depicting a novelist living in Los Angeles. Hank, portrayed as something of a novel-writing Bruce Springsteen, predictably sells the rights to his book to a movie studio, which then butchers it and turns it into Crazy Little Thing Called Love starring "Tom and Katie" (evidently the producers of the show couldn't use the last names of the celebrity couple, so they had to stick with this pop-reference). He has to go to the typical book signings, suffers from writer's block, can't get motivated and sits around complaining about the giant checks he got for selling his book off to the Hollywood suits. Sounds like a writer to me. And, Hank's writing is a central part of the show: it's what drew Karen to him when they initially met, and it's his inability to consistently write that has led to his seemingly never-ending list of problems. It surely doesn't help that Bill, at whom Hank routinely throws sarcastic comments, gives him a backhanded compliment about his job as a blogger for his magazine. That makes Hank who he is, a man who is clearly suffering and conscious of his shortcomings. Hank's honesty with himself and his self-awareness in general is the central reason why the character works on so many levels. He's not perfect, but he's trying. He's not in denial about how screwed up he is or how badly he's messed things up with Karen and Becca, and he knows he needs to make things better. He just doesn't really know how to go about fixing these problems - and, consequently, himself. Such a sentiment is a relatable one. That's why people can care about Hank Moody and can see a little bit of themselves in him. He's another middle-aged man looking for happiness. He knows it has something to with writing, his daughter and his ex-girlfriend, but he doesn't know how to put the pieces to the puzzle together. So with that, we root for Hank and hope he finds whatever it is he's looking for. We know he's messed up, but man, we hope he changes for the better just a little bit every week. And for this problematic character, that's certainly a good thing. Californication airs locally on Xtra HOT Sunday nights at 10 p.m.


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