‘Mr. Corman’ Visualizes The Internal Anxieties Of Navigating The Future By Understanding The Past – Review
Too often has anxiety caused me to think a minor inconvenience or runaway thought meant the end of my world. Too often do I have trouble explaining those anxiety attacks to people, choosing to feel my experience alone than risk sounding like a lunatic. But the power of storytellers and their art struck me at the age of 12, one that coerced me into its arms and caused me to funnel every cent and second of my life into filmmaking- storytelling has the power to help others feel less alone. The image of a 5th-grade teacher struggling to understand his anxiety as an asteroid only he can see looms over him to destroy his world is an image I never thought anyone else would understand. Yet, there it is.
Apple TV+’s latest series, Mr. Corman,follows Josh Corman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he starts to question the life choices he’d made, like pursuing teaching rather than becoming the rockstar musician he’d hoped to be. As the year goes on, Corman finds himself wrestling with more than just his career, but what makes him the person he is and how he positively or negatively impacts the people around him. Created by Levitt, the series chooses to look at the inner workings of Corman’s mind, relationships, and desires through a lens of magical realism, allowing incredible visuals to help make sense of the character’s anxieties and feelings rather than focus on maintaining narrative structure–and I love it.
It’s incredible how many projects nowadays openly and honestly portray neurodiversity–from Bojack Horseman to Inside–never afraid to show the highest highs and the lowest lows and how experiences with either may affect us as people. That kind of portrayal does so much in destigmatizing anxiety, ADHD, and other mental illnesses, sometimes allowing others in similar situations to recognize and articulate the feelings they couldn’t make sense of before. A conversation between Josh and a medical professional in the second episode reminded me so much of a similar one I had when my anxiety attacks started getting bad. These conversations about whether or not I’d steal the ER from some who needed it more or how I couldn’t afford to go to an UrgentCare. Suddenly, I was sitting in Corman’s chair, understanding that exact feeling and wondering what he might do next. It’s a feeling I got consistently throughout the first season.
I’m a huge fan of Levitt’s directorial debut, Don Jon (2015), and its honest and stylistic approach to discussing the toxic expectations in modern romance and sex lives. Similarly, Levitt does incredible work in front of and behind the camera, using his artistic identity and stylistic growth to prove this is a story he needed to tell. While he brings a lot to the titular character, it’s Corman’s interaction with his friends and family that help us make sense of Josh, and the supporting cast stands out in so many ways. Arturo Castro brings a heart and soul to the show as Josh’s lovable roommate, often stealing comedic moments from several episodes and leading one of my favourite episodes of the entire season. Juno Temple brings a nostalgic longing often associated with ex-lovers such as Megan, Josh’s ex-girlfriend, and living embodiment of what may have happened if he chose to stay a musician. But almost every conversation with Ruth Corman (Debra Winger), Josh’s mother, absolutely crushed me. Their relationship is complicated, full of love but seemingly full of disappointment from both sides. It allows for the more insensitive comments made by Josh to feel honest, even if overdramatic, and similar observations by his mom to feel like they impact the character. It’s a relationship I’ve seen in many of my friends and their parents that just rang so true. It’s also worth mentioning that rap artist, Logic, plays Corman’s influencer friend, Dax, and crushes his role.
I will admit that, at first, it felt hard getting behind the protagonist of the show, which seems to be most people’s complaint. Levitt’s character does say some offhandedly judgemental things at times, often causing many situations to feel like an act of selfishness. That’s true; the character has some problems being likable. But I think back to shows like Bojack Horseman, one of my all-time favourites, and how they treat their protagonist. Josh Corman often acts out of selfishness, much like Bojack did, but it’s the understanding of themselves and realization of support by those around them that help them see the growth they need to chase. I saw what Josh was doing in the season, I heard everything he’d say to his mom or roommate or niece, but I could also see the growth that could be had. I see the future this character may follow, mostly because I remember being that way too.
I remember when I let those internal insecurities and anxieties alter my external personality, and I remember the changes I made from that. My experiences trying to understand and cope with my traumatic past and mental illnesses were long and tiring and caused me to hurt people I didn’t even mean to hurt. It’s a long process that I could see the seeds of in this writing, in these episodes, among these characters. It’s a journey I’m excited to go on if this show continues, and I hope it continues. From the natural-sounding conversations to the fantasy sequences of song and dance to Logic in a cowboy costume fighting alongside Party City Batman and what I assume is Sonic(?), this show helped me articulate the complicated feelings I’d never been able to communicate before. I’m so grateful for that experience, and I genuinely hope others find a similar experience as each episode drops.