This week on DVD and Digital from HBO Home Entertainment and creator Alan Ball is a series that shows us a family dealing with “Here and Now.”
Audrey Bayer (Holly Hunter) and husband Greg Boatwright (Tim Robbins) pride themselves on having a very strong family in Portland, Oregon. Three grown children adopted Ashley (Jerrika Hinton) from Liberia, Duc (Raymond Lee) from Vietnam, and Ramon (Daniel Zovatto) from Colombia are joined by biological daughter 17 year-old Kristen (Sosie Bacon).
Greg is a philosophy professor who is badly preparing for his 60th birthday with an Asian prostitute heads home as the family prepares for a big party. Ashley, an already busy fashion designer who is married to Malcolm (Joe Williamson) and raising their young daughter helps and son Duc is a motivational speaker who seems to be missing something in his relationship with Greg but wishes Dad a happy birthday anyway.
Audrey is beyond thrilled when Ramon brings his new boyfriend Henry (Andy Bean) to the party and Kristen is interested in the model Ashley has brought to the party. All is going well until it’s time for the speech and Greg lets out his demons. That all comes to an abrupt halt when Ramon lets out demons of his own!
Greg and Audrey take Ramon to see Dr. Shokrani (Peter Macdissi), a therapist who is shocked almost immediately at what he has to say. Telling him of visions of things he knows can’t really be there, Shokrani isn’t sure how to handle it at first. Audrey, being a former therapist, is immediately sure that Ramon is suffering from schizophrenia since her brother Ike (Ted Levine) suffers from the condition.
Wanting her son on medication immediately, it is Ramon that takes the reigns of his treatment and how he wants to handle it. But the young man and his doctor think there is something much deeper in what others think is Ramon’s ‘illness’. After the mess at Greg’s party, Kristen turns to Ashley for sisterly help and it lands them in jail.
Still reeling from turning 60, Greg is attending an ethic convention and things get a little sideways during his panel discussion. If the family didn’t have enough problems, Audrey tries to defend an event at her school but finds she is the scapegoat. Out on her own and with Greg’s support, Audrey wants to start an initiative to help kids handle their differences but they need funding. There only shot is an old friend Steven Benjamin (Trent Garrett) from Berkley who is rolling in dollars.
Ashley and Malcolm screw up Haley’s party and turn to the family who makes them crazy to instead make an awesome birthday for their daughter. The day is going so well as everyone is getting along and enjoying each other’s company. Later in the day Ramon has another episode.
Dr. Shokrani doesn’t know how to handle the connection he feels he has with Ramon and wife Layla (Necar Zadegan) has had just about enough of it. She suggests that he step away from it all but he isn’t listening. Heading for a gaming expo that would make his career, Ramon is doing well until – he isn’t. Rescued by Greg, both parents are frustrated with the lack of progress helping their son.
Audrey isn’t handling home life any better when she discovers what Greg has been up to. So much so that she starts flirting with Benjamin as her silent anger towards Greg has to go someplace. Kristen knows something is happening at home but she’s got bigger problems when the school girl bully’s try to pin racist spray painting on her.
Kristen meets Dr. Shokrani’s son Navid (Marwan Salama) and an interesting relationship as well as a partner-in-crime situation begins to emerge and his therapist father isn’t happy about it. Especially when the two push their agenda on some at school who hurt them both.
Continuing to help Ramon, Greg and Audrey begin looking through their adoption files to see if there is anything they can uncover to help. What they uncover pushes them both to deal with the naïve way they once were. Ashley has been offered a great deal which might give her more time with the family – eventually.
Dr. Shokrani can not seem to grasp what is happening now with what happened to him as a child. He returns to doing something that Layla and Navid can no longer stand by and watch happen. Shokrani turns to someone that even Layla would never see coming.
The visions are becoming regular now and during a family celebration for Kristen, Ramon is in the backyard tree house with his niece Haley. Fearing fire, he immediately drops the young girl out of the tree house causing the family to go on alert. Ramon takes off wanting to be left alone feeling his family is just to close.
Duc and Dad Greg look for Ramon but end up hashing out their family laundry in public. Calling out one another on their issues, Duc turns to Carmen who seems to be the only person that sees who he is and makes very little judgment about it.
At home, Ramon once again sees something on his computer that sets his feet on the road with a message to go to the mountain top. When Greg receives a phone call from Ike, he believes that there is something Ike knows that can help with Ramon.
All of this leads to something that only Ramon and Ike saw coming – maybe now they will believe!
Hunter as Audrey is an absolute control freak and with that being said let me just say I couldn’t be happier to see her on the screen again. As Audrey she constantly feels the need to control everything about everyone in order to feel at peace with herself. What she fails to realize is that that same control is pushing everyone away – including her own husband who loves her dearly.
Robbins as Greg is a man realizing his own mortality even if he does try to hide it behind his philosophy degree. He is more laid back than his wife, clearly, but still struggles to decide what being 60 means for him. As family and friends begin to worry a little, Greg focuses on his son and trying to play a more active role in his kids lives. Greg loves his wife, he’s just stupid is all and I’ve seen enough of that in real life to kind of cut this character a little slack – only a little though.
Hinton as Ashley is trying to be all things to all people. A good daughter to her white parents, a good wife to her white husband, a good Mom to her daughter Haley and a great business woman. The problem is she is being pulled in all directions which means she isn’t sure who she is or what she believes about anything. I love this character but there comes a time when it’s okay to go a little nuts and Ashley needs to do that – just one good blow out. Williamson as husband Malcolm just wants what is best for his family – and is more forgiving about some of Ashley’s behavior than most husbands would be.
Lee as Duc thinks he has everyone figured out and makes observations so cut and dry. He wants to be the best motivational speaker and encourage others to have a good life. The problem is that the teacher isn’t following his own advice. Slowly it all begins to shift and he has to deal with the childhood memories that seem to plague him both mentally and physically.
Zovatto as Ramon has the most complex character (although they are all pretty complex actually) with his extremely deep love of family and the new idea that he might be mentally ill. No one seems to believe what he is telling them and Mom wants to medicate him before he becomes like her brother Ike. Even boyfriend Henry brings a whole new bag of problems to an already disturbing situation. I think Ramon handles it all better than everyone else around him and trust when I say there are people around him that are truly disturbed!
Bacon as Kristen is the baby in a family of adults and she thinks they all have it so together. Imagine her surprise when she figures out that they have the same identity problems as she does. Just because you are a biological child in a family doesn’t mean it always works in your favor. Seeking out relationships in different ways, Kristen begins to understand how the world works and she isn’t thrilled at all.
Macdissi as Dr. Shokrani begins as a therapist who wants to help Ramon discover what is causing his visions but soon discovers that there is a wider connection between the two men. This is such a sad character to watch as he begins to experience a little of what Ramon is going through but his wife doesn’t really hear what he is trying to explain. There is something in his childhood that has never truly left Shokrani and its back with a vengeance.
Zadegan as Layla is a woman who doesn’t like to make waves but instead live her life as true as she can. Her faith is something that sustains her even if it is distasteful to her husband Shokrani. She also accepts her son for who he is and what he believes about himself. Salama as Navid is exploring who he is but because of his beliefs he must hide just about every part of who he is. His friendship with Kristen is very important as they both explore what it is they want.
Levine as Ike takes a whack at trying to explain to Greg that Ramon isn’t crazy, he just knows something that other people don’t. As he tries once again to explain it to Greg, he sees something in his brother-in-laws eyes that says ‘this guy may not be crazy after all!’.
HBO Home Entertainment has an extensive array of critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking programs found on Bluray, DVD and Digital HD. They have provided viewers with some of the most amazing programs with huge fan bases that include the shows True Blood, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, True Detectives, The Wire, Entourage and Game of Thrones. Launched in 1984, HBO is world wide in viewed entertainment in more than 70 territories around the world! For more of what they have to offer please visit www.hbo.com.
The Bluray includes the episodes Eleven Eleven, It’s Coming, If a Deer Shits in the Woods, Hide and Seek, From Sun Up to Sun Down, Fight Death, Wake, Yes, Dream Logic, and It’s Here.
HBO’s “Here and Now” is a series that just hits the ground running and does so many twists and turns without ever stopping the running game. I know I had a big question mark over my head the first two episodes and then I had to binge watch the rest. There was no way I was going to sleep without knowing what in the hell was going on with this family.
Oh yes, they have the ‘normal’ family issues of life, love, family and relationships that are always filled with complications. Then you add the family dynamic, diversity, potential mental issues, lies, deceptions, hurt, memories and all the rest along with a bit of perhaps psychic stuff and boom – you have a snappy series on your hands!
Each one of these characters is deep in the telling and can not be removed without messing up the house of cards. It is watching some grow up, some remembering growing up, some dealing with pretending and some just dealing that makes this show riveting to watch.
Creator Alan Ball is known the film AMERICAN BEAUTY and the series that will forever be in my heart (and the soundtrack is still in my player) TRUE BLOOD. Winning award after award for his work, it is clear that he has the uncanny ability to write scripts about things that dance on the line of real and strange – both of which I’m absolutely okay with.
So if you are looking to indulge in something that can only be called a family-hot-mess-of-strange then “Here and Now” is definitely for you. The DVD comes with all ten episodes so you can binge like I did and walk away asking yourself “who do I have to slap around to get more?”
In the end – we are living in a new reality!