Day 3: True Blue
Light blue suspenders, blue polka dot tie, a white dress shirt with thin vertical blue stripes, and a solid gray suit, were the hallmarks of Oliver’s wardrobe entering Day 3. A snapshot of a day, we saw enough of Oliver to determine his efforts, and those of his team, were set on one clear set of objectives: sorting out the provenance of the vase, and determining Mary Lou’s whereabouts. Unlike the two previous days, however, Oliver’s wardrobe refrained from representing connection to Shane, Norman or even Rita.
But whether Oliver determined his closest personal and professional relationships sufficiently settled or not, Oliver’s shifted wardrobe was easily a reflection of his entrenchment in the Kellser case itself. Blue is a color often associated with truth, which is essentially what Oliver’s investigative efforts were directed towards determining in aid of the Kellser family. The bright hue was surely meant to reflect his hope for a positive outcome, though the polka dots and striped shirt hinted at lingering anxiety that their efforts might come up short, particularly when it came to locating Mary Lou, which was Oliver’s primary task. What Oliver had no confusion about, however, was the task at hand, and that confidence was reflected in his finally solid gray suit.
Remember how we discussed in The State of Mission that the Kellser case caused Oliver to confront and negotiate that very fine line between “knowing where the lines are and following the rules.” The space between making a decision about the location of the line, and the rule itself, was a “gray area.” The transition from plaid to solid gray indicated Oliver embracing the “gray area” with confidence, leaning into the conflict and uncertainty that kind of space created as opposed to avoiding it. He demonstrated his willingness to embrace such a space when he offered O’Toole Foundation funds to pay for his flight to New York if the Task Force Budget didn’t allow it. He was confident about his next move, and willing to offer his own resources in order to pursue it, an acknowledgment of the very present “gray area” in which he was operating.
Day 4: Cleared For Takeoff
We only got a few moments with Oliver, who had made his way to New York for his clandestine video call with Mary Lou Kellser, but in those moments we got an evolving picture of the man Oliver was transforming into---the one who used both his head and his heart to complete his work. His wardrobe mirrored that image, a light blue and white checkered dress shirt, purple tie, watercolor patterned pocket square, and solid gray suit, reflected a man clear in his purpose and ready to make contact.
Oliver’s wardrobe projected him as a man on a mission, willing to do what was necessary to achieve his desired goals, while still abiding by the rules and regulations to which he was required to adhere. At the same time, it showed him as a “family man,” interested in reconciling estranged family members like Mary Lou back to the family that needed her.
Day 5: Undone
If the brief statement about the blue hues and combination of polka dots and vertical stripes on Day 3 didn’t suffice to prove the point about Oliver connecting with his work on a new level, then his return home definitely supported that argument.
After making a decisive move away from the indigo plaid suit from Higher Ground, it was his suit of choice upon return home to Colorado, complimented by a robins egg blue tie with thin diagonal stripes, blue dress shirt, and blue pocket square with an intermittent floral detail. In a word, Oliver was a mess.
We know nothing was out of sorts in his personal life--- he left on excellent terms with Shane, et. al.--- meaning that Oliver’s wardrobe was a direct response to the heartbreaking news he returned to the Kellser farm to deliver. Besides his wardrobe, his facial expressions, and the mere fact Shane took on the bulk of the responsibility of explaining the situation to the Kellsers’, revealed just how disappointed Oliver was in the outcome. To make matters worse, it was his responsibility to enforce the conclusion, hence providing the Kellsers the opportunity to “see the vase one last time...to say goodbye,” a heartfelt attempt to soften the blow.
Day 6: Clothed In Confidence
While the tangible expression of Oliver’s development throughout Home Again more or less came together in the light of the seemingly tragic outcome of Day 5, his wardrobe on Day 6 was our first encounter with a fully integrated Oliver coming from a place of confidence rather than a place of pain and conflict.
First, Oliver came into Day 6 knowing he was going to be able to save the farm, so his wardrobe aptly reflected not only that confidence, but also signaled where Oliver’s attention intended to turn after the Kellser case wrapped up.
With the Kellser family farm saved, Oliver was once more free to focus on his postal family (Shane in particular), hence the choice of accessories. Oliver paired his solid gray suit with a white dress shirt with a tight purple polka dot pattern, purple tie and purple checkered pocket square. Oliver’s wardrobe at the beginning and end of the film were the same, yet opposite. Once an amalgamation of gaudy and not altogether cohesive suit and accessories, his look at the end of Home Again is clean and streamlined, integrated in appearance to match his integration of heart, mind and spirit. And where he expressed this well in his clothing, he demonstrated the same in his interactions with Shane at the end of the film.
In addition to a sweet reflection on Norman and Rita, and Norman “need[ing] to go solo,” Shane and Oliver transitioned into a discussion of their relationship, one where Oliver interpreted Shane’s nuanced comments in real-time, and provided him an opportunity to further demonstrate the extent of his personal development and integration.
Shane’s request that Oliver “dance the first dance” with her at Norman and Rita’s wedding was more than a simple request. It presented Oliver with the chance to respond, “I only dance to with you.” Interestingly, Oliver chose what he (and we) knew to be a painful moment from his past, and reclaimed it to express his heart in the present. At the same time, he connected with Shane’s heart on an even deeper level, a reality acknowledged by their kiss. What's crucial about Oliver's use of "I only dance with you" is the fact that he used Shane's own words as affirmation, which, as you'll remember, is the way she receives love. It was a level deeper than his approach on Day 2, and the complete opposite of his approach on Day 1. In every way, Oliver's integration process came full circle as they shared a moment among the cows.
The United States of Oliver: Balance | Mission | District of Integration, Part I & Part II | Articles Confederated