Now Streaming: The United States of Tara
Note: This post is spoiler free!
I don’t know why I didn’t stream The United States of Tara before, but I’m glad I did. I’ve just finished the overwhelming and a little unsettling series finale, and now I’m lost. I’m not over the ending of this show. It looks like I’m not alone, either.
So what is The United States of Tara, and why is it worth streaming? It’s a dramatic comedy series starring the brilliant, talented and heartbreaking Toni Colette as Tara Gregson, her family, and their struggles with Tara’s dissociative identify disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. Netflix had repeatedly recommended the show to me based on my previous viewings of Orange is the New Black and other dramas, but I didn’t pay any heed until one day when I needed to have something in the background to work. Immediately I was drawn into the “worlds” of Tara and this cast of crazy characters who dwelled in her head. There was T, the outspoken, loud and foul-mouthed teenage party girl; Buck, the abrasive Vietnam Vet (or so “he” said); and Alice, the picture perfect 1950’s homemaker. These personalities are Tara’s alters, and represent a facet of her personality to her family and the world. They come out when she needs to escape from her current reality, it appears. When she needs to be a “good” mom, out pops Alice to start baking a stack of cakes. When she needs to be brave, Buck arrives, cleaning guns and shooting off his mouth.
The United States of Tara does for mental illness what Orange is the New Black does for the women’s prison trope: it subverts the narrative. (You can listen to our first episode of The Litch Line for more on that). Instead of showing us these “crazy” hijinks with Tara, her family and the alters, it humanizes everyone. At its core, when you strip away the mental illness topic, you get a story about a family struggling through common problems, such as infidelity, teenagers struggling to find themselves, sexuality, and more. In the midst of it all, we see how her family reacts to these problems alongside the alters. There are so many reasons to watch this show. Tara’s children have these great full-fledged storylines that see them evolve over three seasons. Max and Tara’s relationship is tested by Tara’s illness, and yet, they go on.
But my number one reason why Tara should be on your streaming list? Toni Collete. In a matter of minutes, Toni can take on a whole cast of characters, embodying each one with a great characteristic, affect, speech style, and personality. It’s literally an acting class on screen. Sometimes I didn’t even realize that it was Toni, she was so lost in the character. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go on about how her acting evolves, but it’s masterful. It’s dark, funny, and beautiful. Watch it. I got my family hooked and they devoured it. Now it’s your turn.
The United States of Tara is on Netflix now.