‘I Love Dick’ turns an experimental novel into experimental TV

Griffin Dunne and Kathryn Hahn express their love for Dick.

Two and a half stars

I Love Dick Season 1 available May 12 on Amazon.

Starting with its provocative title, I Love Dick makes a point of pushing its audience’s buttons, much like the 1997 cult novel by Chris Kraus on which it’s based. Kraus blended elements of her own life into the meta-fictional narrative of a filmmaker named Chris Kraus who becomes obsessed with an academic named Dick, to the benefit/detriment of her marriage to a fellow scholar. The TV series (from Transparent creator Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins) is more heavily fictionalized, making Dick (Kevin Bacon) into more than just an unwitting inspiration.

The show fills out the story in other ways, placing Chris (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband Sylvère (Griffin Dunne) in a community of intellectuals in the unlikely artistic enclave of Marfa, Texas. Dick is a sort of Marfa kingpin, running a local institute where Sylvère has scored a fellowship and drawing the rapturous attention of his colleagues and acolytes. Chris is instantly consumed by an intense infatuation with Dick, despite his complete indifference, and she starts writing him uncomfortably personal letters, which at first fuel and then begin to destroy her marriage.

Every character on the show is an artist and/or theorist of some sort, all engaged in absurdly pretentious projects akin to Chris’ letter-writing; Dick is a creator of minimalist sculptures who describes himself as “post-idea.” In the tradition of most performance art, the show is both audacious and deeply annoying. It would benefit greatly from just one character who could puncture the air of intellectual superiority, but Soloway and Gubbins really commit to their characters’ solipsism.

Like Transparent, I Love Dick embraces fluid notions of gender and sexuality, and also like Transparent, it proves that people with progressive attitudes toward gender and sexuality can still be self-centered jerks. It’s an admirable artistic exercise (an episode consisting entirely of monologues by several female characters is particularly striking) that’s almost never enjoyable to watch.

Tags: Television
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