This article, “Who is Jane” contains spoilers regarding Hulu’s Life & Beth season 1.
The always welcome Laura Benanti plays Jane, who happens to be only two years older than the star of the new Hulu comedy series Life & Beth, Amy Schumer. While this is a supporting role for Benanti, her character sparks the story into the direction where Schumer’s Beth reexamines her life. Throughout the story, Benanti’s Jane keeps popping up in flashback scenes as Beth ruminates on her childhood that shaped her adult life in many ways, good and bad.
So, that begs the question…
Who is Jane in season 1 of Life & Beth?
Jane is the mother of Beth, the titular character of this Hulu comedy. Beth, and her sister, Ann, have some hard feelings for their mother. (Yet, she has an excellent relationship with Beth’s then-boyfriend, Matt). Why? After her divorce from their father, Leonard, she would jump into a bad relationship. (Played by Michael Rapaport, which was another toxic relationship). Beth is informed that her mother was killed in a car accident at the end of the series pilot.
What does Jane do?
It’s not really what Jane did in the first episode of Life & Beth. Though, she gave Beth the impression she was dating married men again. Jane also gave Beth a backhanded compliment. It’s what Jane does in Beth’s memories. Of course, memories can be subjective, but this is all we have to go on. In the series, Beth has flashbacks in each episode that are pieced together by Beth by the end of the series.
After Jane leaves Leonard and takes the girls with her, she would tell Beth she is so pretty if she just put a little effort into her appearance. Jane has low-self esteem and a poor self-image. So much so Beth has to tell her, as a teenager, that her mother was too good for her father. Jane is so touched she hugs her. Later, in flashbacks, Beth’s best friend, Liz, and her family invite them up to their lakeside cottage for the weekend.
There, Beth sees Liz’s father and her mother embrace. Her mother has an affair with the father, causing a rift in her friendship with Jane. Beth then suffers from anxiety and depression, which leads to her being bullied and losing her hair. Later, Beth finds Jane in bed sad but perks up when a just separated man calls her, and she cheers up, showing she is addicted to positive male attention that is not necessarily positive.
Jane is what Beth fears she may become or already is — someone stuck in a poor cycle of arrested development.