United States of Tara suffocates on slang

United States of Tara I’ve been reluctant to write a review of United States of Tara, Showtime’s new comedy series from Diablo Cody, because I just can’t decide how I feel about the show. Like the title character, I seem to have split personalities with regards to my opinion. Part of me wants to love it because of Cody’s stellar writing in Juno and my major admiration of funny female writers, but another part of me just can’t ignore the trite and cliché dialogue that drags the series down.

The show chronicles Tara, a Kansas interior designer with Dissociative Identity Disorder, or Multiple Personality Disorder, as it’s more commonly known. Tara’s husband (John Corbett) and children (Keir Gilchrist and Brie Larson) go through life knowing that at any moment they could be dealing with T, a horny teenager, Buck, a horny redneck, or Alice, a 1950s housewife. The concept of a regular suburban woman with multiple personalities who has to function in every-day life is interesting and Toni Collette certainly has the talent to pull off the character, or rather characters. The vast differences between Tara’s “alters” offer lots of room for comedy and drama, but the zippy slang dialogue that became trademark Cody just doesn’t seem to fit.

Tara’s teen alter ego T is the most annoying. The character is introduced with a side ponytail and g-string underwear telling her daughter, “I’ve been digging in your closet for an hour and I can’t freaking get to Narnia.” In the course of a few minutes, T referrs to morning-after pills as “kill pills”, having credit cards as being “fully laminated” and calls chicken “cluck cluck”. It all starts to feel like the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Tina Fey playing Juno. This kind of dialogue might have worked in a film where lines were uttered by actual young people instead of mothers who have a teenage alter ego, but here it sounds like something out of a parental advice pamphlet. Seeing this writing in a different context just illustrates how much director Jason Reitman must have brought to Juno.

After watching the pilot, I’m just not sure if I can make it through any more episodes. I cenrtainly can’t continue if T is going to be the primary alter ego inhabiting the leading lady. To be honest, not much actually happens in the first episode beyond Cody’s slang sayings, so there’s not much hope for Buck or Alice as saving graces. The whole thing is just disappointing because it has such a good founfation, with a talented cast and meaty concept, but seems to trip over its own perceived cleverness. I could be convinced to give Tara another try if Cody could “take a chill pill” on the teen speak and deliver some actual content.

Alexis Gentry

Alexis Gentry is the creator and editor of Trashwire.com. She has been called a “dynamic, talented and unique voice in pop culture” by Ben Lyons of E! and, with her strong fascination with entertainment and penchant for writing, it’s not hard to see why.

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11 Responses

  1. Robin T. says:

    awww, I thought it was hilarious. However, sometimes I just want to be entertained, not dissect glib comedies dialogue.

  2. I wanted to like it, I really did, but I couldn’t get past that teenage dialogue. I thought Juno was great, but now it seems like Diablo Cody has turned into Kanye West and considers herself a genius who’s got her finger on the pulse of teenagers everywhere.

    Don’t know if you’ve ever seen this, but it’s so spot-on that it’s hard to watch anything by the real Diablo Cody after seeing it.

  3. Honest says:

    Like we need people to tell what we should like, Go find a real job something that can really improve humanity. Want to improve the work of others? Stop bitching and reevaluate your own job. There is nothing in the world that will please everybody, so move on…because your job is tottaly worthless!

  4. LOL. Did you have a comment, or did you just wanna post a poorly-written slam about my job?

  5. selby says:

    don’t sweat it. that person is just a stupid troll. i like diablo but the show isnt as good as juno.

  6. Hilldog says:

    I wanted to like it too, but it’s like a script written in “instant message”. OMG, LOL, and “cluck cluck”????

    C’mon Diablo, give us something more!

  7. cmedina says:

    Well, it would seem we all have strong opinions and most had high expectations, but I will give it till the third show, before I give up on it all together.
    Trashwire is spot on with the dialog being annoying. I can only assume the TV executives told Cody, this is what America will love and she got wrapped up into it.

    Loved the parody video.

  8. I posted a response to some of you who have been posting comments or sending messages on my personal blog at AlexisGentry.net

  9. Liam says:

    “Seeing this writing in a different context just illustrates how much director Jason Reitman must have brought to Juno.”

    That is sad to think that she might actually be all that deserving of the praise she has been given.

  10. Miranda V says:

    lol, you’ve given me a lot to think about

  1. January 27, 2009

    […] recently published a review of Diablo Cody’s new series, United States of Tara, on Trashwire. In the review, I talked about how I tried to get into the show, but found the […]

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