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'Treme' Season 3, Ep. 9 - LaDonna, A Difficult Woman

Thompson on Hollywood By Terry Curtis Fox | Thompson on Hollywood November 19, 2012 at 1:59AM

LaDonna – a “difficult” woman if there ever was one – is hardly someone who can be seen as pure victim...
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Treme, LaDonna

There's another aspect to the LaDonna story which began last week and continues through the end of the season.

[Spoilers below]

LaDonna – a “difficult” woman if there ever was one – is hardly someone who can be seen as pure victim. (Although in this episode – teleplay by George Pelecanos; story by Pelecanos & Jordan Hirsch – she is victimized twice, once when her bar burns and again when her rapist is freed.) But "Treme"’s writers have leavened her sorrows with a beautifully handled flirtation between her and Albert.

Last week, with Mardi Gras over, Albert finally started chemo. He’s in no position to enter into an affair. And while LaDonna’s marriage may be strained, she is still shown (in an earlier episode) as someone sexually interested in her husband.

The attraction between her and Albert simply happens. Neither is looking. Neither is pushing. But when a threat happens in Gigi’s, Albert is the man who happens to be there to see it. To understand it. To tell her (unlike Larry) that she cannot back down.

In last week's episode, Piazza and Overmeyer wrote a beautiful moment at that point. “Easy for you to say,” LaDonna says (about not backing down). Albert’s response – “no, it’s not” – is said so flatly, so certainly, with such deep history behind it, that LaDonna knows he has been where she is.

(This is, of course, one of the great advantages of television. Piazza and Overmeyer were writing for Clarke Peters and knew exactly what he could do.)

At that moment, these two people are linked, whether they were looking or not.

The flirtation keeps going, and it's a marvel to watch. Both characters have far more important things on their minds than sexual attraction. Neither is consciously looking for comfort.

But the two connect. The emotions have found them. There is not a hint of moralizing in this story, any more than there's a whiff of soap opera. Watching LaDonna and Albert sit across a table from each other is like glimpsing two people in a restaurant who clearly delight in each other's company. Their city and their lives are both in crisis, but, at the same time, they have found this unexpected place of comfort, unsanctioned and unexpected.

And when everything goes to hell in LaDonna’s life, she goes to Albert for comfort. From his chemo chair, he recognizes her pain. All the two do is hold hands.

"Realism" is a slippery term that changes over time. It is often mistaken for grit. But this relationship is realism in the most timeless and best definition of the term. We forget we're watching fiction. We're watching life.
 

This article is related to: Television, TV, Treme, HBO


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.