This week Anne Hathaway—Hollywood's most exuberant and overachieving drama student—hosted Saturday Night Live for the THIRD time. That is a lot of times for someone whom we, as a society, can never seem to decide whether we like or not. Confession: I personally used to be in the "not like" category when it came to Anne Hathaway, but a number of things have changed my mind about her. Hathaway's previous SNL stints, for starters, were good times, and I may have been one of the few people who was charmed by her Oscar hosting gig. But really it was her performance as Catwoman in this past summer's The Dark Knight Rises that really won me over. I just thought Hathaway was so good in that role. Her performance was unlike anything I've seen her do before, and by that I mean she was sinister, grounded, sympathetic, and electrifying. Sure, she was all those things and more in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, but I still thought The Dark Knight Rises was the better movie overall.
Anyway, here's the thing about Anne Hathaway: Like her or not, she's a very talented and gifted performer. Even when a sketch might not be working, you better believe she'll go all Type-A on it, grab it with both hands and strangle it to the ground. She is a dyed-in-the-wool (what does dyed-in-the-wool mean?), old-school performer, a show-must-go-on whirling dervish, all teeth and lipstick just comin' at you like a talent tornado. I thought she was one of the best parts of this episode of SNL! Too bad the episode was not very good overall. I'll try to explain why on a sketch by sketch basis. (Caution: Negativity MAY follow.)
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Open: Mitt Romney on a Balcony
Things got off to an underwhelming start with this cold open, which should've been an exclamation point to punctuate the season's recent run of strong political cold opens. Instead we got a borderline boring sketch about Mitt Romney swigging milk on his balcony (Mormon humor?) while avoiding the completely silent party in his honor that was going on in the other room. Probably the only joke that worked for me was Taran Killam playing three different Romney sons and Mitt being unable to tell them apart. I chuckled at that! Otherwise this sketch went for a soft/elegaic tone, but its lack of hard laughs or comedic timing made for a ponderous exercise. It's too bad, since Jason Sudeikis's Mitt Romney character was generally pretty great (and Sudeikis is leaving SNL pretty soon). Oh well.
In case it wasn't totally clear, Anne Hathaway will be appearing in the upcoming movie adaptation of Les Miserables, so here was a parody of the new song from that soundtrack in which Anne Hathaway and the cast described looking forward to the day after taping. Part of me wished this song was funnier, but I mostly appreciated that the entire cast contributed to what was admittedly a pretty meaningful explanation of how hard it must be to produce this show. Probably the only time I laughed was at the end when Tim Robinson started waving a Mexican flag. So, you know, it wasn't ALL just meaningful explorations of SNL life.
Girlfriends Talk Show
Talk show format. Teenage girls in-fighting. This sketch had some good front-and-center visibility for new cast members Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong, but unfortunately the central joke didn't do much for me. Between having watched SNL for so long and also having seen plenty of live comedy, I felt like I'd seen this sketch hundreds of times already.
The Legend of Mokiki and the Sloppy Swish
Ding ding ding! THIS WAS BRILLIANT. This was so good. SO GOOD. Perfect. The best. There are so many things I could single out as being my favorite part, but they're all so random and unexplainable that it would just ruin the joke. Just WATCH IT. Then watch it again. And then again! I mean, HE IS WEARING TEVAS. Bingo.
You know, there is a difference between doing an accurate impersonation of someone and also having a point. Like, Anne Hathaway, Taran Killam, Bill Hader, and Nasim Pedrad absolutely nailed Carrie, Brody, Saul, and Dana, respectively, but the whole sketch STILL felt like a waste of time? Did somebody forget to come up with a decent premise for a Homeland parody sketch? Just doing impressions felt like enough? I don't know. All this made me want to do was watch an actual episode of Homeland. But again, terrific performances all around.
Okay, I really enjoyed this one. Simple premise: At a McDonald's staff meeting, the mere mention of layoffs causes two loud-mouths to assume they're the ones being let go, so they systematically tell everybody off. Just tons of shouting, hurtful put-downs, and reaction shots from those on the receiving end of their verbal abuse. Personal preference, I love shouty comedy!!!! But this sketch also featured a lot of expert comic timing and a runtime that felt short even though it wasn't. Credit where credit's due: This was a good'un.
Haha was this a Tim and Eric sketch? Anyway, the song wasn't bad and I downright dug the retro screensaver greenscreen action. Plus there's something so aggressively lazy about Rihanna's stage presence that I think is pretty hypnotizing. No yeah, I liked this.
I can't quite explain why (despite the fact that it's literally my job), but I hated Seth Meyers even more than usual this week? Sorry guys. I will probably always, forever, and sincerely dislike Weekend Update with Seth Meyers. Put it on my tombstone.
Commentary: Barack Obama
I hated this too. Was the premise of this sketch to make Obama seem like a mean-spirited jackass? Was it ghostwritten by Bill O'Reilly? Fine, but where were the hard laughs, Bill?
Commentary: Gay Couple from Maine
Terrible premise predicated on the inherent humor of two men being in love, and all on the occasion of an historic civil rights victory. Cool! OR we could just be laughing at the residents of Maine? Just top-notch comedic premises, these. At least Bill Hader and Fred Armisen are individually funny. Otherwise this was very disappointing, regressive garbage.
Commentary: Drunk Uncle
Okay I liked this.
This sketch is not online presumably due to its frequent use of Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love." Like the earlier Homeland parody, this functioned more as a showcase for top-notch impressions than actual funny dialogue: Kate McKinnon's Ellen DeGeneres was breathtaking, as was Hathaway's brutal take on Katie Holmes. (During the closing credits Hathaway made a point of thanking Katie Holmes and Claire Danes, presumably to avoid any awkward run-ins from here on out.)
This sketch was about 45 minutes long and frequently walked the line between silly/fun and boring/awful. But really, this was the first episode after a presidential election and THIS sketch made the cut?
Rihanna busted out this ballad for her second performance and it was lovely! I don't know much about Rihanna—she is some kind of princess from another dimension, right?—but for a platinum-selling superstar she is just weird enough to keep my interest.
Fake Ad: Flaritin
Haha okay. Not sure why the fake ad was aired LAST, but I appreciated how mean it was. The product itself was beside the point: The actual comedy was in the assertion that a lot of allergies are just made-up by picky narcissists. I laughed when Nasim Pedrad's character admitted that she wasn't actually allergic to gluten, she was just on a diet. Someone I know IRL recently told me they were allergic to gluten and I silently LOL'd but then felt super guilty about it and now it feels like this fake ad on SNL had my back? Feels okay. Not great, but okay. I appreciated the message more than I laughed.
I didn't think this episode was very good overall, so it's remarkable that it contained a few sketches that were some of my favorites of the season so far. That's totally how SNL rolls, though, and it's why we keep tuning in week after week. The same rule can be applied to life: Sometimes you have to put up with an hour and twenty minutes of disappointment in order to get to the ten minutes of good stuff, am I right? I am probably not right, but you get the point.
How do YOU think Anne Hathaway fared? What was your favorite sketch of the night?