“The United States of Tara” a triumph for Toni Collette

Showtime’s latest series “The United States of Tara” is a tour de force for Toni Collette, whose deft chameleon acting is nothing short of some of the finest work she has ever done, and Collette has done a lot of fine work. <P>&lt;/P> <P>Collette plays Tara, a married mother of two who has Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.), and it makes for an interesting home life.</P> <P>The wholly original series is the latest from the Oscar winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) and Steven Spielberg is executive producing for Showtime. </P> <P>Caveat for those tuning in: It took me until the end of the second episode before I was hook, line and sinker for the odd dramedy that also features the fine work of John Corbett (Sex and the City) and Patton Oswalt. </P> <P>There’s a kegger in Tara’s brain, as she tries to describe the feeling of being taken over by three distinct personalities: There’s "T," a mouthy hormone-raging teen; Buck, a titty bar and beer lovin’ trucker and Vietnam vet and Alice, a tidy homage to June Cleaver and the Stepford Wives who is a scratch baker and seems to have been plucked from the 1950’s. Her only shade of lipstick is Revlon’s retro “Fire and Ice.”</P> <P>The series is a family Mise-en-scène, where the kids try to cope and her loving husband Max (Corbett) tries to keep his hands off Tara when she is other people.  Not easy when “T” is humping Corbett or Alice is donning Playboy bunny lingerie in attempts to seduce him.  Buck, at least, can appreciate a good porno and a beer with him for some quality man time.  For 17 years he has hung in there and supported Tara through her mental illness.</P> <P>The severity of Tara’s problem is an artful dance and dodge for her family to explain to others, to navigate personally and especially for Tara, who wearies of being torn from herself when her stress kicks her into an “alter” and she effectively loses a day or three.</P> <P>***image3:center***</P> <P>Cody’s dialogue is distinctly recognizable.  She mashes pop culture references in her patent weaving of snark and slag for most all the characters.   Collette is a shoe-in for an Emmy nomination for Best actress.  Corbett is engaging as her loving husband Max and Oswalt shines in his role as Corbett’s landscaping partner. Tara’s teenage daughter Kate (Brie Larson) and her genius teen son (with an impending reveal) is Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) and both do an excellent turn in their roles.  Tara’s sister Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a wild card, and may cause havoc in Tara’s marriage down the road.</P> <P>There is nothing like it on television, and the quality of Collette’s acting combined with Cody’s writing make this show one to watch.</P> <P><STRONG>10 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18 (Showtime)</STRONG></P><EMBED height=295 type=application/x-shockwave-flash width=480 src=http://www.youtube.com/v/kd_zkTD64MI&hl=en&fs=1 allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></EMBED> <P> </P> <P> </P>Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.