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Enlightened: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Laura Dern    Blu-ray
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
List Price: CDN$ 62.48
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Enlightened: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] + Enlightened: The Complete Second Season
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thoughtful, human and well acted Aug. 26 2013
By KBarber
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
too bad this was cancelled only after seasons.... very 'enlightening show' the acting and the premise were great. very enjoyable, and human.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  510 reviews
100 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Uncharacteristic HBO Dramedy That Features One Of TV's Most Complex And Underrated Performances Dec 30 2011
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
One of the lowest rated programs on HBO's 2011 roster, "Enlightened" (created by stars Mike White and Laura Dern) was both fascinatingly unpredictable and practically impossible to describe succinctly. It's closest cousins are probably the Showtime line-up of wacky female-centric comedies--such as Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Weeds, and United States of Tara. But that comparison is mostly about tone and viewpoint as "Enlightened" has a distinctly unique voice that is unlike anything else on the TV landscape. Some episodes play rather seriously, others highlight slapstick mayhem, while others are incisive and filled with awkward humor. Is it a comedy? Certainly. Is it dramatic? You bet. Is it one of the most pointed character studies on TV? Absolutely, and this, more than anything else, is "Enlightened" strongest asset. Spiritual enlightenment and striving to create a more perfect world are usually topics handled with a startling lack of subtlety in comedy. They are almost always the punchline to a more cynical type of humor. And yet, while Laura Dern's Amy is a frustratingly flawed protagonist, her search for meaning is amazingly sensitive and real.

Credit for the show's success sits squarely on its screenplays and its performances. Therefore, writers and stars Laura Dern and Mike White really must be given accolades for the show's impressive creative arc. I've been a fan of White's since the bizarrely intriguing "Chuck and Buck" (I, also, might be the only person on the planet that laments the early death of his before-its-time nighttime soap opera "Pasadena"). He's found a real collaborator and muse in Dern, who turns in one of the season's most underrated performances as the complex central character. The ten episode season begins as Dern experiences a break-down at work, and after a retreat, attempts to rebuild her life into something much more meaningful. However, it's hard to remain Zen as the career she knew no longer has a place for her. Struggling in a new department (with co-worker White) Dern is also trying to rebuild her difficult relationship with her mother (Dern's real life mom Diane Ladd) and reform her troubled ex-husband (Luke Wilson). She yearns to really make a difference, both on those she cares for and on the world in general. But she can be so single-minded and so selfish, the struggle to enlightenment and goodness never runs smoothly.

The primary source of "Enlightened" comedy is that Dern truly is an appalling employee. She is such a mess, seemingly without realizing her shortcomings, because she's always looking at the bigger picture. Part of the show's genius is that it allows Dern to come off as thoroughly unlikable (or flat out wrong) in many instances. But it also makes you understand her quest and constant struggle. Truly memorable moments of the series include Dern going on a job interview (spectacularly written!) only to realize it doesn't pay enough to live on and an episode dedicated to Ladd's character. Dern is a revelation, White is dead-pan perfection, and Ladd and Wilson offer exemplary support. I was never less than fascinated to see where "Enlightened" would go. I presumed it would conclude after one season due to the low ratings, but when the show picked up Golden Globe nods for Best comedy and Best Actress--HBO greenlit a second season. The show has also featured prominently in many year-end "Best of Television" critics' lists.

"Enlightened," in the long run, may not be a show for everyone. You really have to appreciate it as a character study as much as a comedy. If you're expecting big laughs, the show may not always meet your needs. It can be painfully funny, but it can also be painfully real. I hope more people pick up on the show, it deserves a wider audience. About 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 12/11.
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quiet and Beautiful Desperation Feb. 1 2012
By Mark McLaughlin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
I randomly caught the first few minutes of this show when switching between channels and it immediately dawned on me to set up my DVR for the season. I'm so happy I did, with a virtually perfect performance by Laura Dern, it seems apparent why she was so passionate about the show being made she produced it herself. The portrayal of a central character who, to me anyway, sends the viewer in between moments of complete admiration and love for the character to moments of complete horror and complete discomfort. Casting a character who causes such varied states of emotion in a view is risky at best, as evidenced by the lackluster ratings of the show, but Dern's much deserved Golden Globe win may give this understated and ultimately beautiful show the second chance it deserves. I'll sure as hell be there for season two.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars i am exasperated by the character--and that is the point May 22 2012
By carol irvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Lead character Amy Jellicoe is played by Laura Dern, a 40-year-old career woman who finds herself enlightened after a month's stay at a holistic treatment facility. This means she has become the ultimate self help person who verges on the evangelical as she wants to improve the world while still being employed in corporate America. This leads to positively cringe worthy scenes which Laura Dern does beautifully. My favorite one was a baby shower she attended for a coworker. When it became time for her to toast the baby shower mother to be, Amy launches into a plea for them all to join together for a Mexican mother on the news who is being deported back to Mexico while her children are left behind in California. The other women look like deer frozen in the headlights as they listen to her. She is absolutely clueless as to how out inappropriate this speech was for someone else's joyous occasion.

This would be an easy character to hate except that Dern gives her many layers. She now has been forced to work with the nerd division down in the basement of her company. There she makes her first friend post treatment and he is someone she would have never even spoken to before this. This is also the co-creator of the show, Mike White.

I have known enlightened people like Amy and they make me as uneasy as this show. This is a good thing. It is amazing that this show made it onto tv as it is very thought provoking.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Uncharacteristic HBO Dramedy That Features One Of TV's Most Complex And Underrated Performances Jan. 17 2013
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
One of the lowest rated programs on HBO's 2011 roster, "Enlightened" (created by stars Mike White and Laura Dern) was both fascinatingly unpredictable and practically impossible to describe succinctly. It's closest cousins are probably the Showtime line-up of wacky female-centric comedies--such as Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Weeds, and United States of Tara. But that comparison is mostly about tone and viewpoint as "Enlightened" has a distinctly unique voice that is unlike anything else on the TV landscape. Some episodes play rather seriously, others highlight slapstick mayhem, while others are incisive and filled with awkward humor. Is it a comedy? Certainly. Is it dramatic? You bet. Is it one of the most pointed character studies on TV? Absolutely, and this, more than anything else, is "Enlightened" strongest asset. Spiritual enlightenment and striving to create a more perfect world are usually topics handled with a startling lack of subtlety in comedy. They are almost always the punchline to a more cynical type of humor. And yet, while Laura Dern's Amy is a frustratingly flawed protagonist, her search for meaning is amazingly sensitive and real.

Credit for the show's success sits squarely on its screenplays and its performances. Therefore, writers and stars Laura Dern and Mike White really must be given accolades for the show's impressive creative arc. I've been a fan of White's since the bizarrely intriguing "Chuck and Buck" (I, also, might be the only person on the planet that laments the early death of his before-its-time nighttime soap opera "Pasadena"). He's found a real collaborator and muse in Dern, who turns in one of the season's most underrated performances as the complex central character. The ten episode season begins as Dern experiences a break-down at work, and after a retreat, attempts to rebuild her life into something much more meaningful. However, it's hard to remain Zen as the career she knew no longer has a place for her. Struggling in a new department (with co-worker White) Dern is also trying to rebuild her difficult relationship with her mother (Dern's real life mom Diane Ladd) and reform her troubled ex-husband (Luke Wilson). She yearns to really make a difference, both on those she cares for and on the world in general. But she can be so single-minded and so selfish, the struggle to enlightenment and goodness never runs smoothly.

The primary source of "Enlightened" comedy is that Dern truly is an appalling employee. She is such a mess, seemingly without realizing her shortcomings, because she's always looking at the bigger picture. Part of the show's genius is that it allows Dern to come off as thoroughly unlikable (or flat out wrong) in many instances. But it also makes you understand her quest and constant struggle. Truly memorable moments of the series include Dern going on a job interview (spectacularly written!) only to realize it doesn't pay enough to live on and an episode dedicated to Ladd's character. Dern is a revelation, White is dead-pan perfection, and Ladd and Wilson offer exemplary support. I was never less than fascinated to see where "Enlightened" would go. I presumed it would conclude after one season due to the low ratings, but when the show picked up Golden Globe nods for Best comedy and Best Actress--HBO greenlit a second season. The show has also featured prominently in many year-end "Best of Television" critics' lists.

"Enlightened," in the long run, may not be a show for everyone. You really have to appreciate it as a character study as much as a comedy. If you're expecting big laughs, the show may not always meet your needs. It can be painfully funny, but it can also be painfully real. I hope more people pick up on the show, it deserves a wider audience. About 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 12/11.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A subtle, breathing, emotional masterpiece March 1 2013
By E. Bigger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I knew nothing about this show until I heard Mike White and Laura Dern on NPR's radio show "Fresh Air." Mike White (writer, creator, and actor playing "Tyler") described how the idea of the show came from his own breakdown during a stressful period working on another TV show. He spoke thoughtfully about his connection with Eastern religion and philosophy (striking given his father's involvement in fundamentalist Christianity as a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, and his subsequent evolution into a gay rights activist), and about the challenge of becoming an agent for change. I liked his honest and self-aware answers to Terri's questions, as well as Laura's zeal for playing a complex and visionary female character, so I was curious enough to check out "Enlightened."

Strangely enough, I watched episode 2 first, not the pilot, and absolutely fell in love (I think the pilot, while not bad, is one of the weaker episodes, so please don't judge the whole series based on it alone). This is a challenging but deeply moving show, which was like catnip for someone who is easily bored by predictable, feel-good characters and storylines bearing little semblance to reality. I devoured the rest of the episodes, and promptly purchased the season 1 DVD as soon as it was released. It is absolutely wonderful, and by far the best DVD purchase I have made in years. There are short segments with Mike White explaining his thoughts about each episode, as well as episode commentaries. My favorite episode and commentary is #9, "Consider Helen." Hearing Laura Dern (who plays Amy) and her real-life mother Diane Ladd (who plays Amy's mother Helen) reminiscing about their own very different relationship, while discussing the relationship of their fictional characters, was an absolute treat. They could both teach master classes in acting, with incredibly rich and nuanced performances in all of the episodes. Mike White is wonderful as Tyler, Timm Sharp is hilariously douche-y as Dougie, and Luke Wilson manages to evoke even more pathos as Levi than he did in as Richie in The Royal Tenenbaums.

While Enlightened doesn't have the easy impact of graphic sex and violence in Girls, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Mad Men, and other highly regarded shows, it achieves the much more difficult task of using the simple tools of words, emotions, and relationships to portray the desperate loneliness of contemporary American society better than any other TV show I've seen. And it does this with a protagonist whom you want to strangle half the time, for being so self-absorbed, socially tone-deaf, and irritating. But what Mike White does, better than anyone else on TV right now, is to show you the secret humanity shining from the hidden depths of each loser, ghost, and lost soul. I can't think of another show that has a more emotional, resonant effect on me, and I say with all seriousness that it's better than pretty much anything else on TV right now (sadly overlooked by most, given its shamefully low viewer numbers). It's among the greatest works of art I've experienced. If you're an introvert, then you'll definitely "get it."

P.S. Season 2 is even better, and I eagerly look forward to purchasing that DVD when it's released.
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