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Reviews are in for HBO's much-ballyhooed "Tell Me You Love Me", and they're extremely mixed.
The show is an intimate look at marriage, told through 4 couples, one each in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 60s.
Graphic scenes of sex in the premiere rival those in soft porn, and the visual shock distracts from the larger theme.
But stick around, and what starts as a modest character study punctuated by holy-cow nudity turns into a brilliant depiction of sexual conflict, frustration and dysfunction... But don't make the mistake of thinking this is the Kama Sutra and fast-forward until you get to the good parts.
The series bores deeply and single-mindedly into the marrow of marital relations, and it does so with sympathy and insight. Unlike Showtime's "Californication," which also exploits pay cable's sexual latitude, "Tell Me You Love Me" does feel raw, honest and real, pulling you along as ordinary couples grapple with bad decisions (again, mostly the women) and struggle to find happiness.
Moreover, the Alexander-Selby union is symbolically thrilling: When was the last time, after all, you saw a couple in their 60s graphically have sex anywhere, much less on TV?
The wife in her 60s, May Foster (played by former NEA chair Jane Alexander) is the therapist of the other three.
HBO series have featured some well-known actors and kickstarted the careers of other, lesser known actors.It's shot almost clinically - no slow-motion or soft focus, no sensitive editing, no soundtrack music and certainly no well-timed fades to black.They're shot persuasively, too - so much so that if it's nudity you're after, you'll find it, and if it's intimate behavior that verges on late-night Skinemax titillation, you'll find that, too.Explicit scenes of young, lithe bodies having it in many places and in all manners, including solo, are plentiful in the first few episodes.
Yet when it comes to a white-haired, elderly couple, the camera looks away, sparing viewers the shock of seeing sagging bellies and wrinkled limbs in the throes of carnal bliss...These couples' stories, though, are told very well.