Louie Review: What Lies Beneath
The continuation of Louie’s highly romanticized courting of the bookstore clerk picked up on "Daddy's Girflriend (Part 2)" with more of Louie’s prejudices.
This time he sympathizes with really cute young girls because of the constant sexual objectification they suffer at the looks and thoughts of “massive men." To him, free drinks can’t compensate for the knowledge that they are “someone else’s cum fantasy." That prejudice introduces us to this week’s themes; honesty and deception.
Throughout the episode, Louie will have to be honest. He’ll have to shed his façade and his fears to keep up with the beautiful, non-stop whirlwind of a woman he met in the bookstore on their first date. However, as we’ll see despite her in-your-face soapbox grandstanding about honesty, we can’t help but think that there is A LOT this cute clerk isn’t telling Louie or the audience. So, though Louie comes out his shell, is the clerk’s overt nature just a cover up for something far more damaged and scared?
When you think of a first date, you typically get two people not 100% being themselves. They hold back. They’re reserved. They try to ease into this new relationship with small talk about parents, siblings, work, hobbies, etc. We hide personal, intimate details about unseen physical deformities, horrific life-altering traumas, or anything that will take us out of our (or our date’s) comfort zone. From the get-go, we get the sense Louie’s first date with the clerk won’t be so comfortable.
Louie shifts nervously outside the bookstore. The clerk exits and appears to be all business – a quick hi and a suggestion to go to the bar. Louie can’t even finish his sentence before she’s off. She says goodbye to her co-worker, calling him “Seymour” but he states his name’s Roger. Did she even hear his correction? We’ll never know, but we Louie seemed to notice.
At the loud, crowded, young, hip bar, Louie’s a fish out of water. The clerk asks what Louie wants, but as he fumbles over his words, she’s off to order. She asks the bartender for a beer and two Jagers – bartender says ‘not after last time’ and suggests a white wine, which causes the clerk to look bummed. She bee-lines it for the exit without as much as a nod to Louie, who quickly follows.
For most people, that would be a red flag. The mystery surrounding this women has grown tenfold – is she an alcoholic? Does she get angry and/or violent when she’s drunk? Does she have no self-control? We’ll soon see that she’s impulsive, fleeting, and possibly bipolar.
Outside the bar, Louie asks her what happened and the clerk makes up an excuse – ‘too crowded’, which Louie buys. Not one minute after she lies to Louie, she’s calling out Louie for not telling the truth about walking. “Just be honest, that’s the only way I’ll continue this date with you.” As Marty McFly would say, “That’s heavy, Doc.” The statement, like so many other quotes pouring from the clerk’s mouth, catches Louie off-guard. This isn’t the kind of talk that comes out on a first date. Even when she admits that she moves too quickly responding to people, Louie’s like a deer in headlights.
Before Louie can even process what’s going on, the Clerk’s into her next emotionally powerful diatribe – describing in detail her battle with a carcinoma. At the age of 14, she weighed 70 pounds and her hair and teeth were falling out. Her supportive mom was by her side as she sobbed, puking in the toilet from the chemo. The clerk’s apparent honesty is refreshing for Louie but also unsettling. This date has become a test.
That’s not just dialing it up a notch. That’s about 10,000 notches. Revealing you have a fear of spiders or closed spaces is one thing. A graphic explanation of your struggle to survive is another. Is this the way all first dates should be? I don’t know. One could argue against it. We’re inundated with information every waking moment. We’ve become a society that is addicted to information.
But we also want the ability to turn off. To power down. To not operate at an unrealistic level that will eventually burn us out. A first date, in some ways, is an escape. It’s a fantasy. You’re whoever you want to be. You don’t have ALL the info and, for the most part, most people are okay with that. Living in the Matrix, ignorance is bliss.
As Louie tries to process this bombshell, the clerk apologizes and gives us another veiled lie – “I tell everything." We begin to discover that she only tells everything she is comfortable with. She didn’t tell Louie the real reason why she left the bar and now she can’t tell him what she did after dropping out of school when she fully recovered from her ailment. However, she’s stared death in the face and made a full recovery – who’s he to argue or complain?
By this point, most viewers should see what’s going on. This is a woman with something big to hide, so she distracts herself by never stopping, always going, never letting herself think too much or getting into that ‘bad place’ of her mind. Louie attempts to unpeel a layer from her onion and she finds a sparkly dress she wants him to try on. She doesn’t even know why.
But her frantic, erratic behavior is repeatedly forgiven because this whole adventure is happening under the guise of helping Louie – to get him to come out of his shell. Forgive me for being cynical, but the clerk’s pace was exhausting and conspicuous. She needs to be in control (ironic considering her apparent lack of self-control) and Louie is easily controllable. We get pros and cons, positives and negatives with each moment. Extreme highs and bottomless lows that all keep Louie intrigued.
Louie jumps through more hoops. The couple have been so caught up in this breakneck crusade that they haven’t even exchanged names. He falls for the Clerk’s joke about her name being “Tape Recorder” then whisks her away when he sees a “caveman” from inside the pool parlor staring at her ass. That’s Louie’s way of convincing himself he’s NOT a caveman. That he’s better than. But, why else would he continue on this topsy-turvy freefall of a date? What’s his objective? He wants what any other man wants – to have sex (his own prejudice). And he hates himself for that.
The Clerk – who still failed to provide her name after duping Louie - takes him into a deli. They eat and eat and eat a wide variety of food – fish, bagels, pickles, peaches, bread. Louie can’t get enough. He can’t stop raving about it as they walk down the sidewalk. The Clerk says it’s because he’s never been there before then cites North Dakota, a place she’s never been to but wants to visit. She explains that it’s the desire she wants to hold on to but doesn’t expound any further. We can read so much into this comment alone.
She, like most people, enjoys the chase, the pursuit, the expectation vs. the reality and the fulfillment. Her ‘breath of fresh air’ honest approach is simply an appetizer – to appear desirable to Louie. If anyone should know about the set-up (desire) and the punch line (reality), it’s Louie – it’s been a running theme throughout the entire series.
From there, the Clerk convinces Louie to buy a homeless man his expensive prescription pills and a hotel room for the night. Following the commercial break, the Clerk is in a half-jog with Louie in tow. She opens up a seemingly off-limits door and climbs stairs without telling Louie where they going or what to expect. This again plays into the expectation vs. reality. She refuses to disclose the end game because she knows Louie would outright reject it justifying the means.
Louie stops and sits down, refusing to go any further, and releases the wrath of the Clerk - she yells at the top of her lungs, which jolts Louie into action. The expectation is she’ll coddle him; the reality is a frightening shriek.
They hit the rooftop, and Louie isn’t impressed at first, but then he comes to appreciate the view. Then he gets scared of the heights and begs her to come off the ledge. “The only way I’d fall is if I jumped. That’s why you’re afraid to come over here because a tiny part of you wants to jump. Because it would be so easy.” Louie’s silence confirms the validity of her assumption. “But I don’t wanna jump. So I’m not afraid. I would never do that. I’m having too good of a time.”
Her overjoyed smile relaxes Louie, but then her demeanor slowly melts into despondent sulking. Was that all a lie? Does she really want to jump? Did someone she love and cherish jump to his or her death? The mystery grows.
She gets up and suggests they go home. As they leave the rooftop, she finally reveals her name to Louie: it’s Liz. Louie takes one last look at the ledge and the city as if he’s trying to make sense of it. This simple gesture leads me to believe that Liz is a metaphor for not only New York City, but for life. If he’d known their first date would’ve turned out like this, would he have gone through with it? It was the desire that pushed him to continue on, but now he’s left with the reality of having more questions than answers. Knowing what he knows now, will he go on a second date?
As the credits roll, Parker Posey takes us through a gambit of emotions in a black & white close-up one-shot sequence. We catch a snippet of her laughing in bold, vibrant colors before the ‘reel’ ends. It feels like a send-off. Louie went through the black and white (the bad memories) but, much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he will ultimately remember her positively.