Vanity Fair: My Brilliant Friend: A Couple of Parties

In the strongest episode yet, Elena watches Lila become the neighborhood’s singular force of change—from a birthday party to New Year’s Eve.

On Vanity Fair

Sonia Saraya – Nov 26, 2018

We’ll be recapping each episode of My Brilliant Friend. This recap is written by someone who has read (and loved) the original books, but there will be no spoilers for future plot points. New episodes are airing Sunday and Monday nights, through December 10.

The difference between last night’s episode and this one is so marked it’s like night and day: Where “Metamorphoses” was trapped inside the neighborhood, “La Smarginatura” starts outside of it, with Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) falling under the spell of the glittering waters of the ocean. “Smarginatura” is the term Lila (Gaia Girace) offers for a feeling that first hits her at the end of this episode, and later recurs throughout her life—“dissolving margins,” as it’s translated in the books. I love that the word in Italian (or is it dialect?) nearly has the word “smear” in it; that feels like a more powerful, and more uncomfortable, word than “dissolve.”

Lila describes this feeling as a profoundly unsettling one, but—as is clear in both the book and the show—it’s one that stems from her extraordinary power. Lila can see the shifting edges of the world around her, because she’s smearing those divisions herself—between the poor kids and the rich ones, the haves and have-nots, the men and the women, the murderer and the victim. This whole episode is one of dissolving edges. I ended my last recap lamenting how little joy was depicted in the show, and this episode was like a rejoinder: Two different parties, a trip to the sea, fireworks, dancing, and the growing solidarity of the young people in the neighborhood. Something vital is seeping into the community—and maybe, something is seeping out, too.

Read more