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Binge This: Amazon’s I Love Dick

Amazon’s original series I Love Dick isn’t afraid to hold back.

First of all, there’s the title of the comedy. It’s one designed to instantly grab attention from the masses. Based on the Chris Kraus book of the same name, the show also doesn’t hold back when it comes to providing a wild ride for its lead characters Chris, Sylvère and, of course, Dick.

The comedy emits a considerable indie movie vibe and stars Kathryn Hahn, Kevin Bacon and Griffin Dunne (Bacon is also one of the show’s executive producers). The story centers on Hahn, who plays Chris, a frustrated filmmaker, whose career and marriage are a bit stunted. That is until she heads to Marfa, Texas with her Sylvère (Dunne) who’s set to begin a writing residency at a local institute.

That’s where the husband and wife meet Dick (Bacon), a renowned artist, who hasn’t been able to create anything of note in a while. Chris and Dick quickly establish a relationship full of friction and fascination with Dick being the object of Chris’ intense focus.

This strange, sexy journey reignites her marriage and reenergizes some of the other quirky characters that live in Marfa at the same time. But more importantly, Chris is able to dig deep and channel her creative side in ways she never thought possible. It’s a time of real awakening for her.

On the flip side, her marriage is on shaky ground thanks to her emotional exploration. How does Sylvère react to this version of his wife that’s taking form in front of his very eyes? Will he learn some truths about himself? And what about Dick? Will Hurricane Chris have an effect on his life and cause him to question his macho attitudes?

At the recent I Love Dick Women of Cinefamily Marathon screening and panel, an audience was able to experience the new series in its entirety in a dark theater on a Sunday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Jennica Abrams

The eight-episode binge session was accompanied by a panel that featured Kraus, Hahn and Transparent creator Jill Soloway, who adapted Kraus’ book for Amazon. CineFamily programmer Kate Rouhandeh was the moderator.

Photo Credit: Jennica Abrams

In comments she made before the screening started, Kraus called I Love Dick the first feminist series. During the Q&A she praised the performances — she was in awe of them, actually. “One thing that really affected me now watching it today and not on my little laptop is how incredibly intimate the performances are for episode TV,” said Kraus. “I don’t think I’ve ever really seen that kind of performance on a TV show.”

Kraus’ involvement with the project was more of a “spiritual godmother” kind of thing. “When Jill approached me, I thought, great! But I wrote the book 20 years ago so I had no desire to sort of like hover around or put myself forward to write scripts,” she said. “They’re TV writers and they’ve been on TV shows, they know exactly what they’re doing.”

Soloway returned the artist and author’s admiration even though she confessed not having discovered I Love Dick until well after it was released. In fact, she and playwright Sarah Gubbins, her partner-in-crime in adapting Dick for Amazon, didn’t learn about its existence until they read an article about the novel.

“We were kind of looking for something else to work on and we read the article in the New Yorker about the book and were just shocked that there was a book called I Love Dick that we didn’t know about,” admitted Soloway.

She said that after they read the book they were “shocked that there was a mind such as the mind of Chris Kraus that we thought might have been kept from us.”

Photo Credit: Jennica Abrams

And that voice spoke to them. “As a feminist and as a Jew and as a woman to have felt like where is that voice that I could grab onto, and feel cooler and smarter than the rest of the world…I relate to her,” Soloway continued. “We both got the book immediately. We both found a lot of opportunities to read it in public with the jacket open.”

Hahn made the same confession. She said she was “flabbergasted” and “ashamed” that she hadn’t heard of the book but once this role came into her life. And while she and Kraus never met before filming the pilot, they did eventually meet up afterwards.

Photo Credit: Jennica Abrams

“I was buoyed by the fact that after we made the pilot we finally met for a meal and we picked at a fruit salad together with our fingers which I loved,” she recalled. “We were both kind of tickled by certain things that we had in common.”

To bring I Love Dick to life, Soloway needed a hook. “You know what was the thing that made me think it could be a TV show was the love triangle,” she explained. “I’d never seen something where a woman has a crush on a man, she tells her husband and he goes, let’s talk about it. Let’s go in, go towards that. And that to me felt like this sweet kind of engine of a TV show that you can just keep turning and turning and turning, episode after episode, season after season.”

There’s more to the story than the triangle, however. According to Soloway, “we very quickly realized we wanted women of color and queer women in the show. And because objectifying people as a way of protagonizing your characters was a theme, we were able to hand that to Devon (Roberta Colindrez).”

In addition to the story arcs, the show utilizes unique elements to help paint a bigger picture. This includes title cards used in moments that are more confessional in nature as well as clips featuring the works of feminist filmmakers.

Photo Credit: Jennica Abrams

Behind the scenes of I Love Dick there’s an equally fierce feminine energy. Soloway and Gubbins put together an all-female writers’ room where they were able to take a less structured approach to creating the final product. It was all about “having the women in the room read the book. Letting everybody meditate on the possibility of what the show would be and then coming together to see what happens. I’ve always been very anti-bible when it comes to TV shows. Because I’m like how could you spread the bible before you’ve hired your writers? Wouldn’t you want your writers’ room to give birth to the whole season? So really it was just about letting go.”

I Love Dick begins streaming on Amazon Prime this Friday, May 12.

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