Oscar-winner Frances McDormand does an impressive turn as Olive Kitteridge in the new HBO miniseries based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the same name.

Airing over two nights on Sunday and Monday, this is the sprawling, sometimes disjointed story of a small New England town and its troubled inhabitants.

It’s a tale told over the course of a quarter century through the lens of the brutally honest, often unlikable title character.

Frances McDormand, John Mullen and Richard Jenkins in "Olive Kitteridge." | Photo courtesy HBO

Frances McDormand, John Mullen and Richard Jenkins in “Olive Kitteridge.” | Photo courtesy HBO

Expertly executed flashbacks reveal a foundation of pain and suffering that gets built into a structure that would collapse under its own depressing weight if it weren’t for the occasional moments of humor and tenderness. Beware: Those moments are few and far between. This is not the show to watch if you’re trying to get out of a funk.

Olive’s imperfect relationships with her sweet husband (Richard Jenkins, “Six Feet Under”) and her not-as-sweet grown son (John Gallagher, Jr., “The Newsroom”) can be painful to watch, while her unlikely friendship with a widower played by Bill Murray is something to relish.

To McDormand’s credit, she lets us see through enough cracks in Olive’s gruff façade to reveal a vulnerable woman let down by life by ultimately unwilling to give up on it.


8 p.m. Sunday and Monday on HBO

Rating: [s3r star=3/4]