She plays the Tara of the title, a happily married woman who has roughly three times as many personalities as she does children.
As the season opens, Tara has her "alternates" under control, thanks to a massive mix of medications. But when the guy next door dies, and she and hubbie Max (John Corbett) buy the empty house to flip it, not only does Tara retreat into her whacked-out world of dissociative identities, but conjures up a new one in sassy therapist Shoshana. The bigger problem, however, is when old alt Buck re-emerges and begins an affair with a single-mom bartender (Joey Lauren Adams), pushing the otherwise understanding Max to a breaking point.
In other news, Tara and Max's son (Keir Gilchrist) begins to accept his homosexuality, while their daughter (Brie Larson) experiments with online webcam antics for profit. Tara's sister (Rosemarie Dewitt) lands a fiancé and then learns she's pregnant ... with another man's child.
Over the course of these 12 half-hour episodes, Collette seems to spend more time in Tara's skin than her alts, allowing her character to explore the root of her illness. Thankfully, the writers offer revelations, rather than making us wait until season three. Regardless of whose skin she's in, Collette shines.
Since he has the most grounded role, Corbett doesn't get nearly the buzz he deserves as Max, but this year gives him more conflict with which to work, and he does it very well. The kids are great, too, and one wishes Larson would be cast in every teen girl role, because she handles her snappy dialogue like an old pro. It's only too bad she's forced to don a silly Viking costume for the half the season, in a silly storyline that eventually rights itself to go somewhere interesting.
In all, "United States of Tara" is a terrifically written and acted dramedy anchored by a bravura turn from Collette and excellent support from her peers. The only real downside to this two-disc set is that it doesn't contain bonus episodes from other Showtime offerings as the channel's previous sets have done. After all, that's how we discovered "Tara" in the first place. Rod Lott