Diablo Cody recently declared that Girls star/creator Lena Dunham is this generation's "new Woody Allen" and while the statement brought divided opinions (as all things Dunham-related tend to do), after watching this week's devastating, brilliant, and very New York Woody Allen-esque episode of Girls, the Juno writer might just be on to something.
While I'd argue that Louis C.K. has actually perfected the art of New York comedian neuroticism — I hesitate slightly in calling him the new Woody Allen, though, as Louis C.K. romanticizes the city much less than he embodies its oft-unforgiving reality — last night's episode of Girls, titled "One Man's Trash," felt as much a Woody Allen homage as it did a Louie homage.
The episode started off as typical and inconspicuous as any episode of Girls. Hannah, dressed in an outfit as unflattering as any other she'd worn before, was once again letting someone know just how clever she is. This time she claimed that she'd coined the next big phrase: "sexit," which means to make a sexy exit. The only problem was that the term already existed on Urban Dictionary (there it means "to make a speedy exit during the middle of sexual intercourse). Plus, she told this all to Ray, the most humorless, joyless person in existence. (I still don't quite see what Shoshanna does.)
Mid-conversation Ray and Hannah were interrupted by the sudden presence of a tall, dark, handsome stranger (played by Patrick Wilson). He was a local neighbor who came into Grumpy's to complain that one of the employees has been dumping the coffee shop's trash into his trash cans two blocks away. Rather than try out the tactic of "customer is always right" or basic human decency, Ray immediately went on the defense, called him a "f**king pinko," and did nothing to alleviate the situation. Hannah, who had been looking guilty the minute the word "trash cans" was uttered, rightfully told Ray he was rude and quit on the spot because she no longer wanted to work in such a "toxic work environment."
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Cut to Hannah standing at the foot of the steps of a very beautiful brownstone, presumably the home of the upset neighbor, meaning she was the guilty culprit, as expected. (Quick, annoying New Yorker sidebar: Grumpy's famously resides in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint, but this scene was filmed over the summer in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene, which is a full three-and-a-half miles away. Moreover, both neighborhoods have noticeably different aesthetics and if you're a Brooklynite, you knew the minute she showed up at that house, she wasn't in Greenpoint anymore, Toto. A minor annoyance, maybe, but for a show that gets a lot right about New York City, this one was a pretty obvious blunder. End of annoying New Yorker sidebar.)
After knocking on the door, the handsome stranger answered and Hannah apologized for Ray's deplorable behavior and said she had something to tell him. He invited her in, to which she responded, "I could really be putting myself in a Ted Bundy situation. He also looked clean, handsome, and probably had…a brownstone." And with that, she realized this man was certainly no Ted Bundy, ducked past him and entered his home as if she'd done it a million times before. He looked equal parts confused and amused.
Hannah was stunned when she stepped inside, and understandably so. He lived in an elegant, enviable, and very-grown up home. She joked that she felt like she was "in a Nancy Meyers" movie. The two, despite their wildly different socioeconomic statuses and general disposition, already had a instant rapport with each other. He was surprised by her, in a good way, and she said things in her very unfiltered Hannah way ("You're probably a little insane, we all are") but wasn't met with snide resistance like she usually does when she talks to someone her age.
Eventually she admitted that she dumped the trash in his cans, not only because she lost the Grumpy's dumpster key and didn't want to admit it to Ray, but because putting trash in places it isn't legally supposed to go is her vice. It's a pretty rare thing to see Hannah willingly, humbly admit she was wrong, and even more rare for Hannah to be forgiven for her mistakes, which is exactly what the stranger did when she apologized. Whether she felt safe in his picturesque Brooklyn brownstone or that she could be raw and real around this man or that he's just so damn beautiful (probably a little bit of everything), Hannah bravely, impulsively kissed him…and he kissed her back.
Within moments he put her on his kitchen counter for a very sexy make-out session, and between passionate kisses they traded statistics (he was 42 to her 24) and flirtatious banter (he adorably guessed her name is Daisy). I know there will be naysayers that will argue this sort of thing doesn't happen, and some will inevitably argue for sadly shallow reasons that it wouldn't happen between these two (so wrong), but remember, this is New York, anything can and does happen at all hours of the day.
Post-weird (but not in a bad way) hookup, Hannah learned that his name is Joshua (not Josh) and he learned that she is Hannah, not Daisy. She also learned that he is recently separated from his wife, he's a doctor, and that cooking steaks and drinking wine on a glamorous back deck isn't something that only happens when planned guests come over. The two, despite having just met and having sex, were instantly comfortable with one another. Hannah looked, oddly enough, at home there, maybe even more so than Joshua, who joked that he's an "old ghost" in the hip, young neighborhood. Perhaps her comfort was because, for the first time ever, we've actually seen what Hannah can be like when she's being herself around a man, not what she wants to project to him.
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I say man because that is exactly what Joshua is: a grown-up man. He didn't play mind games or speak in riddles, when he told Hannah he wanted her to stay he meant it. When Hannah tried to make things difficult or blurry, he pus her in her place and asked her to say and do what she actually wanted. When she asked him to beg her to stay, he obliged in a moment that was hilarious ("Not like you're in Toy Story") and romantic and exhilarating. When they began to have sex again, it was authentic (boy, Patrick Wilson as good at these kind of scenes, isn't he?) and actually sexy. Girls has a lot of sex in it, but rarely is it as sexy as it is uncomfortable or depressing. Then again, Hannah has never had sex with anyone who actually knew what they were doing (he told her she's beautiful, and meant it, and he was damn good at dirty talk, too) and wasn't just there for his own pleasure. Hannah, for the first time ever, wasn't faking it, in every sense of the word.
The next morning Hannah woke to find Joshua lounging in his sun-drenched, impeccably decorated living room. He'd called out of work to spend the day with her ("What happens when a doctor calls in sick?" Hannah asked, to which Joshua, not skipping a beat, replied "Ten to twenty people die" and Hannah let out the most genuine laughter we've ever heard come from her) and demanded she do the same. They spent the day playing ping pong, making love, and genuinely enjoying each other's company.
When she later joined him on the back deck, draped in his lovely, expensive sweater, she marveled at him. Wordlessly, we saw a mixture of sheer happiness, knowing sadness, and a lifetime of realizations sweep across her face. He was everything she'd been missing, everything she was supposed to be looking for in this world. He treated her the way she was meant to be treated. He sent a calm, flirtatious glance her way and she smiled shyly. It was maybe the most romantic scene on television in a long time.
By nightfall, however, it all changed. After Hannah accidentally passed out in his shower ("I thought I was a gummy worm for like seven minutes"), either from the heat or the overwhelming emotional heft of the day (I'm guessing both), she lay her head on his lap in his bed as he stroked her hair and calmed her down. I take it back — maybe that is the most romantic scene on television in a long time. Hannah, totally immersed in the moment, began to cry. When he asked her what was wrong, she told him she'd had the life-changing realizations that she actually wants to be happy, that she was sicking of living a life of experiences for the enjoyment of other people who walk all over her, that she wanted the stability and normalcy she has fought so hard against. It's a lot to take in.
But even in a moment of clarity, Hannah was still just a 24-year-old trying to figure it out and still, as she put it, was "broken inside." She realized that, at the core, maybe she was "the crazy girl" who quotes Fiona Apple in conversation and over-shares embarrassing or downright horrific stories and turns away the genuine feelings of others because she's too wrapped up in her own. In the most excruciating five minutes of the show, Hannah made everything unravel, and despite realizing that she was "deeply lonely" did things to push away and scare off someone like Joshua for good. They wouldn't have worked, in the end, but Hannah self-sabotaged it before it even had a real chance. But that's who she is, at this age and at this moment in time, and that also makes it okay.
Despite the awkward moment, Joshua still had her stay the night, because he was a well-meaning man at the core, if not one in the middle of his own crossroads and one who did something impulsive while he was still technically married. Hannah was just as much an escape for reality for him as he was for her. He got to be young and cool and needed in the eyes of someone who was young and cool. There were no harsh realities (like his marriage) until Hannah made him remember that no one was perfect and going to make his life carefree as it once was.
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The next morning Hannah woke up alone to a quiet, empty house. The light outside was not as bright, and thus the house felt darker, sadder. In a sequence that was reminiscent and worthy of a sequence in Louie, Hannah spent the morning soaking in the last few moments of a life that was not hers….just yet. (Like Louie, this was also set to a terrific score, here set to the music of Michael Penn). She read the paper, ate toast with fancy jam, wore the shirt of the sensitive, sexy doctor whom she shared a bed with. It was wonderful and sad and lovely all at once, and Dunham deserves all the credit in the world for penning a scene that said so much with saying nothing at all.
Whenever I find it hard to love or connect to Hannah it's usually because she's too self-involved and shows no signs of caring about anyone other than herself. But in one simple gesture — taking out Joshua's trash after taking one thoughtful last look at his home —she changed my mind. There's something deep inside of her that does have the capability of caring about someone other than herself, doing something for someone that doesn't benefit her. I realized that, and perhaps she realized that, as she walked away from Joshua's place on a breezy summer afternoon. (Now that was a Woody Allen moment on the show if there ever was one).
This was, far and away, my favorite Girls episode to date. It was sexy, funny, moody, and told an important story in just thirty minutes. It showed us that we can connect with the most unexpected people in the most unexpected circumstances. That we can randomly walk into people's lives and change them forever. That we'll have experiences with some people whom we'll never see again but will leave an indelible mark on us. (I can't imagine Hannah and Joshua will ever see each other again, but I have no doubt they'll always cross each other's minds for the rest of their lives). That doesn't make Dunham the voice of a generation, that makes her a voice any generation.
[Photo credit: HBO]
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The pilot story, set in the small town of Strawee, Arkansas in the '30s, follows the experiences of Joshua Torrance, a doctor whose practice is jeopardized by his opposition to racism as he attempts to treat blacks as equals.