United States of Tara - Variety

Premieres on Showtime, Sun. Jan. 18 at 10PM

Despite the boldfaced names behind the scenes - Steven Spielberg! Diablo Cody! - it's the woman at its center who ensures The United States of Tara is more than a gimmick with a cutesy name. By turns oozing sexuality, vulnerability and confusion, Toni Collette gives Showtime's latest half-hour its buoyant pulse - and a credible shot at the accolades the channel covets. Although it flirts with the preciousness that proved an irritant in the Cody-scripted Juno, there's an innate sweetness at the show's core that essentially says people become inured to all manner of strangeness in the context of family - even a woman with four disparate personalities.

In a bit of a risk, Tara jumps right in without pausing to explain its heroine's backstory, taking it as a given that Collette's suburban housewife, artist and mother, Tara, periodically closes her eyes and becomes someone else. Only in dribs and drabs during the four episodes previewed does the audience discover that she has wrestled with her condition - dissociative identity disorder (DID) - for years before choosing to go off her meds, thus inviting the "alters" back into her life. (It's not until episode three that she finally sits down with her therapist, laying out some of the DID ground rules.)

The result, initially, is a slightly unsettling matter-of-factness about T, the flighty teenager; Buck, the surly, beer-swilling (male) homophobe; and Alice, the perfect if not exactly prim 1950s-style homemaker, dropping in unexpectedly. So the simple question "Is Mom home?" invokes an answer like, "Mom's here, but I don't know if Mom's here."

Read the rest of the review: Variety


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