Addiction is a disease. Specifically, a disease largely centered on the mind and willpower. Within that, the individual who is addicted has to be willing to seek help for their issue. In feature films, addiction is tackled with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, while the show Feel Good, created by and starring Mae Martin, takes a different direction when looking at the difficult road to acceptance of the problem and recovery.
Mae is a Canadian stand-up comedian who begins a serious romantic relationship with a British woman named George (Charlotte Ritchie). Mae meets George because she is performing stand-up in London. The two definitely spark mostly because they drink a lot during their first encounter, and George finds Mae hilarious. Honestly, upon first viewing of this episode, I liked everyone who interacted with Mae more than Mae as a person. Part of the reason I felt that way comes down to their categorical avoidance of serious topics, especially if they relate to her addiction. She is firmly of the belief that her experiences with her addiction are in her past, and ultimately I can guarantee that will cause an end to her sobriety.
Charlotte Ritchie is brilliant as George. She’s sincerely yet playful and guarded but open-minded. The scene I was most moved by was her initial confrontation with Mae regarding being an addict and her push for Mae to actually go to a meeting as a form of seeking help and staying on track. I also loved her response to Mae burning all of the items related to her addiction. For me, it was the episode’s most powerful moment.
One character I really want to touch on aside from the two leads is Maggie, played by Sophie Thompson. After completing the first episode, I was sure that Maggie was a manifestation of how Mae feels about recovery. Thinking on it now, a day removed from viewing the episode, the character and her antics act as a physical prediction of Mae’s path in life if she doesn’t continually fight for her own recovery and attempt to be open with others. Sponsors are supposed to keep you on the path to give you reasons to actively stray from it.
The most memorable aspect for me is how the camera is used to frame the different events happening in Mae’s life. The opening moments of the episode feature a fantastic tracking shot of Mae walking to her gig. She’s steady but emotionally still. She doesn’t come alive until she’s seconds away from performing her set. When she does perform, she bombs horrifically, but that doesn’t stop her anxious behavior, which manifests itself in a high octane speedy word delivery only found in Gilmore Girls.
Feel Good isn’t fun. It’s not supposed to be. At its best, it will probably act as a cautionary tale to other people in the entertainment industry about drug use and its effects. At its worst, it will be a tale of a love story gone wrong and it the after-effects of such destruction. Either way, I’m intrigued to see whether this comedian cleans up her act or takes George down with her.