Week 4: Frances

Paul is outside with Rosie talking about colleges. She drove Max back from Baltimore. She tells him Steve took Max to D.C. on Saturday to see the Calder exhibit. Rosie asks if that is weird for Paul. He says that doesn’t fit with the way Max talks with him about Steve. He asks her what she thinks about their relationship. She thinks they connect over art. Rosie tells Paul Max loves him, he came to live with him.  They hug. She leaves.

Frances has cut her hair, which Paul notices and says is becoming. She says it is becoming for the character. She talks about how she and character are similar -- her character is recently widowed, sex starved. Paul asks if that might be why she struggles with her lines, that similarity. Paul recalls she was terrified she would fail last week. Is she still worried about that? Is one of the scenes the ones she wanted him to do with her the scene she was worried about? She says she understands why he kicked her out last week. He says that is not how he remembers it. She says she asked him to read lines with her, it made him uncomfortable and then she felt sorry for him. She says it must be strange treating someone like her, someone famous. He asks her what she feels when she is doing the play. She says she felt disconnected in rehearsal but now she feels present in previews and it lasts through the play and the applause is loud and good.  Paul says that must feel satisfying but she looks sad. He asks what happens between then and now. She says she goes home -- the apartment is dark, the  fridge empty and she opens a can of soup. And then she asks if he wants to come to opening night. Paul asks why she would want him want him there. She says he  could see that she is good. He says he knows because he has seen her films. But he has never seen her on stage, she says. He tells her he has to say no. She asks if it is because of a policy. He says it would interfere with the work they are doing in therapy. He asks if she invited Patricia. She says no. And when he asks why, she says she went to see Patricia and apologize for what she did when she was in college. Patricia brushed it off. She says Frances e did her a favor  because she got to live a real life. Seeing the expression on her face, Paul says that hurt,  did you tell her? No she didn’t because Patricia is sick.

Paul asks what Frances thinks of the life she chose? Paul says he thinks she is very invested in how others see her. She says she thought she had a deep connection with her husband at first but she always felt she had to prove herself to him and his friends, that they thought there was no there there. 

Paul asks if she is upset that he won’t come to her play and thanks her for inviting him. Isn’t there someone  else she would like to invite? How about Izzie? Frances sees that as hopeless but Paul tells her that is the way with teenagers, that they will come back. Did that happen to you she asks him. He tells her yes it did, with his daughter. She says she is still reading her daughter’s emails. She knows they have’t had sex yet and she wishes she could tell Izzie to preserve the mystery. She wants to tell her lots of things. The boyfriend saw one of her movies and said she was amazing and Izzie responded that she is amazing. But Frances turns that away.Paul observes that the more applause she gets playing others, the less confidence she has in herself. 

She says wishes her mother could be there, that this is the first time she has been on stage since her mother died. Her mother always went to her performances, even when she was very sick. The last time she saw her mother was right after a premiere her mother came to. Paul says she had told him she went back and forth to the hospital while her mother was sick. Frances says she told herself for so long that’s what she did that she began to believe it. She says she was inept in the hospital, didn’t know what to do for her mother when she was in pain. She ended up throwing up and it got worse after the premiere. Patricia said their mother got worse after the premiere and she thought she blamed her. Paul says she blames herself. Frances  says she never said goodbye to her mother, she wasn’t there. Paul tells her her mother couldn’t have been disappointed because she didn’t know she wasn’t there. The disappointment comes from herself. And now her sister is dying and she is terrified again. Is she afraid there is no there there as Russell said. Paul tells her she needs to ask herself what is or isn’t there inside, how does she measures her own worth. She smiles wanly and gets a compact out f her purse to repair her makeup. At the door she tells Paul there was someone in the waiting room when she left and she doesn’t want to see anyone. She leaves. 

Then there is a knock. It is Frances -- she tells him she got the test results from the genetic test but hasn’t opened them. They can talk about them next week.


The opening tells us again about the triangle involving Paul, Max and Steve. And in this episode we learn more about how the triangles in her life have affected Frances. The issues in Frances’ life are unfolding more slowly than with Jesse or Sunil. This pace feels normal for therapy to me -- a kind of slow reveal of where the wounds are rather than dramatic episodes. This week we begin to see more of how sad Frances is and how insecure. And as she reveals more of herself, she seems to become less flirtatious with Paul. Notice that early in the session when Paul asks how she felt when he would not do lines with her, she is a little flippant and says she felt sorry for him and contrast this with her vulnerability at the end when she tells him she doesn’t want to see anyone in the waiting room.

That remark is interesting because we aren’t certain what it means for her. Is she saying she doesn’t want anyone to see her leaving his office, especially when she is upset? Or perhaps does she want the illusion, as many patients do, that she is the only one, that he is there just for her? I suspect both though the second is pretty unconscious for her. She has always been in competition with someone else for love and attention. It was her sister their mother chose to take in bed with her. It was her sister who was with her mother when she died. It is her sister her own daughter is choosing now. As for the first, as Paul says she is quite dependent on the views others have of her and so likely would not want anyone to know she needs a therapist.

I find I have less to say about Frances than about Sunil. In many ways she is a more typical patient than most we have seen in this series. Yes, she is famous, but her issues with aging and facing possible illness and death, with a rejecting teenager feel very familiar. And Paul's work with her seems spot on. 

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.