In Tiny Beautiful Things, Kathryn Hahn gives an award worthy performance.
The Hulu series stars Hahn as Clare, who is married to Danny played by Quentin Plair. At the opening of the show, Clare has proverbially and literally hit rock bottom. Their marriage is on shaky ground, her professional career has taken a dive, and Clare’s relationship with her daughter Rae is floundering. For almost two decades Clare has carried with her the grief over the loss of her mother, and all the decisions that she wanted to make, but never did.
While seeking advice from an advice columnist named “Dear Sugar” Clare is stunned to learn that it is not a woman, but a middle-aged man that she used to know. Furthermore, Clare is offered the job as “Dear Sugar” and though she initially rejects the offer of answering advice column letters, she takes on the role, and slowly but surely, finds herself.
Kathryn Hahn is a force of nature who can take any role and make it special. Whether she is a centuries old witch, a bad mom, or conspirator in a glass onion, Hahn makes her presence on screen a vital component to any story. In Tiny Beautiful Things she plays a role that feels genuine, raw with real emotion, and the perfect avenue to display her talents.
Clare could have been portrayed in a very dismal manner that shows her to be a weak misguided fool. Kathryn Hahn makes us care about this character. Though Clare is suffering from grief, and adjusting to aging, we as an audience will find a connection with Clare because she is everyone.
The ‘issues’ that Clare must confront are not manufactured illusions but rather segments of real-life problems. How does one overcome the grief of losing their mother at a young age? You don’t! One must live on, but you cannot run away from your grief or hide it, because the grief will find you. Clare has been hiding for a long time.
On the cusp of fifty, we meet Clare as someone hitting midlife and wondering where the time went. Anyone who has looked in the mirror and found their first grey hair, or worried about facial wrinkles can empathize with Clare. Hahn lights up the screen with her performance of an ordinary, everyday woman, who is just trying to figure out life, and wondering how she ended up where she did.
Quentin Plair plays Danny, and while he doesn’t get center stage, Plair is the perfect dance partner for Hahn. Danny, much like Clare, is approaching mid-life, and throughout their disagreements, he asks his wife who she really is. The life that Clare and Danny live is real, and they have problems, and they are trying to solve them.
The show is split between two time periods, from the modern day with Hahn and Plair, to a couple of decades before with Sarah Pidgeon as Young Clare and Stevonte Hart as Young Danny. Their performances allow us to see the young, innocent and carefree youth, which gives the audience greater insight into why our main characters are in the life they currently live.
Tanzyn Crawford plays Rae, the couple’s daughter. Crawford carves out her own niche amongst the talent on screen, and while the story of Clare and Danny dominates, it’s easy to see the talent that Crawford has and how she maneuvers through the main story.
There are a thousand different ways that a story like Tiny Beautiful Things could have been portrayed on the big screen. A character like Clare could easily have been stereotyped as a cheating spouse, who is too immature for her own good and lucky to have made it to 49 unscathed. That would have been a terrible shame and thankfully did not happen. Everyone who has passed the age of 40 has asked themselves at one time, or maybe many times, how did I get to this place in my life? The problems that Clare and Danny face are not comical, nor are they silly, they are real world problems, which require real world solutions.
Clare has been struggling for a long time, putting off what she wants to do because she feels like she is needed in some other way. The pain at the loss of her mother, becoming a mom early in life, and then her issues at work, are all things Clare must deal with. While it might seem a tad strange, the way Clare interacts with the Alzheimer patient at work is not only touching, but shows a genuine compassion that family members might miss out on because of the stress they are placed in.
Looking for an answer to her problems, Clare’s realization that the best way to help herself comes from the answers that she offers others through the ‘Dear Sugar’ letters. To thine own self be true, and for Clare, the moment she is true to herself is the moment she can heal.
With executive producers like Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Cheryl Strayed, and Hahn the pedigree for success is certain. What makes Tiny Beautiful Things a guaranteed smash hit is
Kathryn Hahn’s award worthy performance.