Alison Oliver shines in Hulu series 'Conversations with Friends'

BySandy Kenyon via OTRC logo
Thursday, May 19, 2022
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"Conversations with Friends" is based on a book by Sally Rooney, and the same creative team that brought her novel "Normal People" to life are behind the new Hulu series.

A new limited series on Hulu hopes to duplicate the success enjoyed by "Normal People" two years ago.

That show was based on a novel by Sally Rooney, whose first book was called "Conversations With Friends." Now, that's been made into a series by the same creative team behind the earlier hit.

Like the original show, this features young people in Ireland, but the cast is not the same -- and the story is very different.

Frances and Bobbi are college poets who perform together. They're friends, who are also former lovers.

"My entire romantic history is just Bobbi," Frances explains early in the drama.

This begins to change when this pair meet a TV star named Nick and a writer, Melissa.

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The situation gets interesting when Bobbi kisses the wife at a party.

"We've been flirting and it just happened," the character says.

Both Bobbi and Melissa are bold and opinionated, but the other two are less outgoing.

"I think they really recognize the similarity in each other," said Alison Oliver, who plays Frances. "And that's what kind of brings them together."

Oliver brings her to life so brilliantly that it makes total sense when she begins an affair with the older Nick, played by Joe Alwyn.

"For this affair to kind of continue, there's definitely more of a reason than just attraction or intrigue," she said. "There's a fundamental thing that I think is happening between them that's kind of healing them in a way that is great."

They proceed haltingly: Two steps forward, then a step backward.

They go without seeing each other for long periods of time, and long silences are punctuated with high drama.

"I'm in love with you," Frances tells Joe. "And you obviously don't feel the same."

It is a stunning debut, and Oliver is so great she makes you forget you're watching a performer.

As a result, viewers can experience Frances in all her complexity.

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The fully realized performance is all the more astounding when you consider Oliver is playing a college senior in Dublin and only recently graduated from a university there herself.

"It's great to be able to relate to your character and maybe a life stage that they're at," she said. "Like, 'Oh no, I'm an adult in the world' kind of thing that she's going through."

I was blown away by her quiet power, and not since I saw Laura Dern act as a teenager in "Smooth Talk" (1985) have I been so amazed and astounded by a young actress in a lead role.

Oliver alone is reason enough to watch this story, told over six hours. I'm almost finished but have been pacing myself, because thanks to Alison Oliver, I don't want it to end.

"Conversations With Friends" is from Hulu, owned by the same parent company as this ABC station.