Mr. Corman review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's 'comedy' show on Apple TV+ starts bumpy, but ends on a purposeful note

While Mr. Corman initially feels like an elongated piece of whiny drama, it ultimately feels good to wait around and let it unfold at its own pace.

Ragini Daliya August 06, 2021 16:45:03 IST
Mr. Corman review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's 'comedy' show on Apple TV+ starts bumpy, but ends on a purposeful note

Mr. Corman, a 10-episode series created by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a 'sad man story' posing relevant questions on 'What if?.'

The official plotline of the show picks on each one of us, living through the existential dread in 2021: "Anxiety-ridden, the titular Mr Corman questions what he’s doing with his life, and whether he’s a good person that deserves good things." Intriguing, right? Who can’t relate to this? However, it takes a whole lot of patience to sit through the entire show only to discover its purposeful endnote.

Josh Corman (Gordon-Levitt) is a failed musician turned fifth-grade teacher. He is anxious, too self-indulgent for his own good, has a strained relationship with family, and is still reeling under the pressure of a fraught break-up with his long-time girlfriend/music partner, Megan (Juno Temple). While he loves his job, he still yearns to create the art he used to make for a living. This self-pity, whiny attitude often translates to a negative outlook on life, for he is now prone to making a crass statement without thinking about its impact, to even on random women he meets out at bars. Mr Corman is someone we all know, someone we all have been at some point in our lives.

Mr Corman initially asks us to accept reality from Josh’s perspective and, by default, to take his side in all things, from arguments with his mother (Debra Winger), sister (Shannon Woodward) to clashes with his roommate Victor (Arturo Castro). However, in a remarkable format, Gordon-Levitt takes breaks often to change POVs, adds another layer, showing that his sad man worldview should be docked, suggesting that Josh need to understand that he can no longer be the centre of the universe.

Mr Corman review Joseph GordonLevitts comedy show on Apple TV starts bumpy but ends on a purposeful note

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Arturo Castro in a still from Mr Corman

The fourth episode, called “Mr Morales,” shifts almost entirely away from Josh to temporarily become a show about Victor, a divorced UPS delivery driver struggling to connect with his teenage daughter during their brief time together on weekends. Castro plays the role with buoyant optimism. He embodies the warm, reliable type of best friend who is often relegated to the sidelines. But his POV made me curious to find out more about him, almost making us wonder why is there no Mr. Morales?

As the show progresses, we find that feeling creatively unfilled is not the only thing that worries Josh. He has a tough time sticking around professionally and in personal relationships, as pointed out by everyone around him, in almost every single episode. He has an unaddressed childhood trauma, which later gets untangled in one of the best episodes of Mr. Corman, a two-hander between Josh and his father (Hugo Weaving). The episode lays bare Josh’s relationship with his dad, and all the ways it has shaped him, for better and worse.

When things get tough for Josh, the screen switches to magic realism, closer to shifting into shape and flowers. When Josh cannot find the words to say to his mother, a musical breaks out. The world around him briefly becomes an animated collage before snapping back to reality. A meteor appears in the sky, a collision course with Earth, yet only Josh can see it.

The season finale is a neat bookend. COVID-19 and the quarantine also enter the picture to make things more difficult for Josh. A Zoom date offers Josh a 'big picture,' with refreshing twists and turns, and a conversation that runs between surprising and authentic. The end-montage narrative shows that Josh can be a changed man, only if people’s words — Victor’s, Ruth’s, his date’s, his students’ — actually get through to him. More importantly, he is capable of becoming someone with a pleasing attitude, someone who people can actually enjoy being around.

The best part of Mr. Corman is that it does not fall into the tropes about Josh resurrecting a failed musical career, but it does speak to the idea of rediscovering things that bring you joy. While it initially feels like an elongated piece of whiny drama, it ultimately feels good to wait around and let it unfold at its own pace, a risk worth taking. Let's just say, Josh is an unhappy person trying to figure it out, like many of us.

Mr. Corman is streaming on Apple TV+.

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