Lost in the Movies: Beverly Paige (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #78)

Beverly Paige (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #78)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday although patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public. There will be spoilers.

Beverly does her job well and is quite aware of her practical needs, but she also longs for something more and senses that perhaps her sad, wistful boss could provide it.

Monday, September 25, 2016
Beverly Paige, assistant to Great Northern Hotel operator and owner Benjamin Horne, enters her boss' office to discuss an issue with a guest. One Mrs. Houseman, it seems, wants a refund since a skunk infiltrated the room (although Ben insists that it wasn't even anywhere near her room, he agrees to refund part of her stay since she and her "New York friends" are heavy users of the sauna). Beverly attempts, with difficulty, to gauge the right things to say and what tone to strike - she's clearly new to the job and still nervously figuring out her relationship to Ben. A bit taken aback by the entrance of Ben's grizzled, rambunctious brother Jerry, who lounges on the chair when she departs, the overall impression is that she shows promise and initiative but doesn't quite belong in this environment...yet.

Thursday, September 28, 2016
Beverly appears much more comfortable on this evening, her hair loose, her posture at ease as she and Ben hover near his desk and listen carefully to a faint ringing sound that she first heard a week ago but which appears to be louder now (perhaps because fewer people are around to drown it out). Clearly bemused and intrigued, both Ben and Beverly wander around his office trying to identify the source of the noise; Ben even encourages her to close her eyes and tune in to its frequency. The co-workers, despite their status and age gap, are bonding. Beverly also remembers to show Ben something that came in the mail, an old fashioned room key (despite the fact that the hotel switched over to cards decades ago). Ben recognizes the room number and mutters some names that Beverly doesn't recognize - Cooper (apparently an FBI agent who was shot in Room 315) and Laura Palmer, the "long story" he came to town to investigate. As Beverly lingers, Ben gently reminds her that "it's getting way past quitting time" but encourages the departing employee to call him by his first name rather than "Mr. Horne." Smiling as they say their goodbyes, the two clearly feel a connection.

When she arrives home, Beverly encounters an older woman leaving the house, who tells her that her husband had a bad day, needed more pain medication, didn't eat, and misses his wife. Clearly taken aback by this borderline guilt-tripping, Beverly tries to carry on calmly; inside, she asks Tom if he'd like to eat and brushes off his pressing inquiries about why she stayed so late at work. Finally, when he mopily says he's not hungry, she loses her temper. She got this job to support him and she doesn't want him to fuck it up. Resentful of his manipulations, she glares in his direction as he looks back at her with an air of disbelief that makes it hard to assess who emerges from this argument with the upper hand.

Friday, September 30, 2016
Announcing the sheriff's arrival, Beverly is all business once again, her hair up and jacket on. Returning to Ben's office after the sheriff leaves she is stunned to learn that Ben's grandson has killed a child and assaulted a woman whose hospital bills need to be paid. Murmuring "I'm so sorry," she listens as Ben switches gears, describing a warm childhood memory of a green Schwinn that his father gave him. Then he shifts again, back into dictating instructions about how to handle the patient's medical treatment. That evening, her jacket off, Beverly hovers near a lamp with Ben as the mysterious sound resumes (she describes the tone as "mesmerizing," and Ben compares it to a monastary bell"). Though a bit more muted than the night before, they're still warming up again; office hours are over and their romantic flame is rekindling. Their arms touch and when they turn around, Beverly practically ends up embracing Ben. He tenderly removes her hand, touches her face, and tells her he can't "do this" though he's not sure why. Beverly assures him that his own moral character is the reason.

Characters Beverly interacts with onscreen…

Ben Horne

Jerry Horne

and Laura Palmer is mentioned

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Beverly
The town we see through Beverly's eyes is limited - just her home and her workplace. But when the office you clock into is the Great Northern, Twin Peaks' hub of not only tourism but spiritual energies, that limited viewpoint can reveal quite a lot. Beverly's Twin Peaks is largely workaday but with an enticing aura of magic and mystery. A mystical sound calls to her and Ben, not only suggesting another realm but relaxing and warming the mood in the very room they're standing in. Enigmatic names - "Cooper", "Laura Palmer" - hint at a rich vein of local legend which Beverly has only scratched the surface of. While presumably an outsider who arrived for the job to support her husband, Beverly may be more in touch with the original Peaksian vibe than many of the veteran characters. And no wonder; they've gotten used to it all whereas to her, like the FBI agent or us in the audience back in the pilot, it's all new and exciting. Of course her more depressing, constricting home life is probably (though not for sure) part of Twin Peaks the town - and definitely part of Twin Peaks the show - too. After all, the original series had a flair for soapy melodrama which is harder to find in the new series, but Beverly's situation contains all the right ingredients: dramatic illness, marital arguments, guilt and distrust, possible infidelity, a woman venturing outside her domestic sphere and enduring the social fallout. Even so, the soapy potential is undercut by Lynch's subtle, naturalistic handling of the Paige exchange, and perhaps especially by the scene's one-off nature. We are glimpsing the possibility of an ongoing drama, not actually initiating one. Likewise, when Ben shuts down Beverly's overtures, he is indicating the limits of our own engagement. While we might be more familiar with the underlying premises of their lives than Beverly is, we've also been absent for twenty-five years. We can peek in and pay a visit, but nothing more committed is going to come out of this; we've been gone for too long and there's too much water under the bridge. The beloved characters will tell us a personal story but then brush us off before going too deep, leaving us in a state of perpetual longing.

Beverly’s journey
There's a nice, sweet arc to the relationship between these two, from newbie jitters to familiar if chaste intimacy. The scene at Beverly's house allows us to understand her perspective in these scenes alongside the character we know much better, and it also displays the pressures she's under. If her role progresses steadily from outsider status to comforting friend, there's also a sense of peaking and then declining potential, with the middle of Beverly's story providing a high point prior to a cooling off. This is worth discussing from her own perspective but in fact our own perception of Ben and Beverly is a different, slightly more complicated matter. Beverly's journey is not the viewer's journey; although we can trace the intended chronology of the scenes based on costuming and interactions with other characters, they are not actually presented to us in the order described above. The more professional, distanced interaction within which Ben cracks slightly, and tells Beverly the bicycle anecdote, carries a more poignant charge if we view it as taking place after Ben declines to kiss her - which is how it unfolds in the series. Indeed, the bicycle scene is placed four episodes after that refusal even though they clearly take place on the same day given Beverly's shirt and Ben's tie, and almost certainly would unfold in the opposite order given the removal of the jacket and the emergence of the sound. But as we watch the scenes in episode order, it feels like we're witnessing a restoration of sorts, in which Ben is boss and Beverly gets only glimpses of his inner life. (There's also an odd scene involving only Ben, which I'll cover in the "Offscreen" section below, which makes Ben's refusal more ambiguous, and gets even more convoluted when we tease out the actual continuity.) Regardless, from either perspective there is a solid trajectory between those two crucial scenes, as well as the one in between, in which Beverly's husband creates higher stakes for (and drives a stake through) her emerging interest in her boss. Beverly's journey ultimately does not lead her to a new place, except perhaps to a deeper wisdom and a gratitude for the moments she was able to enjoy.

Actress: Ashley Judd
A member of the legendary country music family, Judd - like so many Twin Peaks alumni from both the original and new series - was a quintessentially nineties screen presence. Yet another Gen-Xer, she made her debut on Star Trek: The Next Generation and appeared in thirty-two episodes of the series Sisters. Her cinematic breakthrough was Ruby in Paradise, and she did her time in the thankless, ubiquitous "concerned/nagging housewife to protagonist of major film" duty in Heat and A Time to Kill (in the Michael Mann film, at least, she gets a killer final moment to compensate for some of the more tiresome tropes). Her scenes in Natural Born Killers were cut but she was able to make an impression in Smoke, and finally near the end of the decade she achieved mainstream success with Kiss the Girls as a serial killer victim who's able to escape and tell her story. Now a full-on star in her thirties, she appeared in films like Double Jeopardy, Where the Heart Is, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Frida, and De-Lovely, and eventually as the lead in the series Missing.

Meanwhile, Judd developed a reputation as a forceful political activist and Democratic insider at a time when the two roles did not seem so at odds as they do now (she almost ran against Mitch McConnell in 2014). An advocate for abused populations in developing countries, she even proclaimed herself anti-natalist - opposed to the bringing of new children into the world when so many were already suffering for lack of resources. She read the poem "Nasty Women" at the Women's March shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration, cementing her place at the center of modern feminism. And then in late 2017, mere months after she played a woman in Twin Peaks whose boss respectfully declines to engage in a romantic and sexual relationship, Judd became the first major actress to publicly identify mega-producer Harvey Weinstein as a harasser and abuser of women. This opened a cascade of accusations that not only destroyed one of the most powerful men in Hollywood but launched the society-wide #MeToo movement. Time Magazine featured her on its year-end cover, making her the only member of the Twin Peaks ensemble to be designated Person of the Year. Since this historic moment, Judd has acted in a handful of roles, most notably as BB Yates in the CIA drama Berlin Station. An upcoming film, currently in pre-production, ironically casts her as right-wing agitator Anita Bryant.

Part 1 (Showtime title: "The stars turn and a time presents itself.")

*Part 7 (Showtime title: "There's a body all right." - best episode)

Part 9 (Showtime title: "This is the chair.")

Part 12 (Showtime title: "Let's rock.")

Beverly is onscreen for roughly thirteen minutes. She is in five scenes in four episodes, taking place over about five days, or a single workweek. She's featured the most in part 7, when she stays late with Ben for the first time to identify the mysterious noise. Her primary location is the Great Northern. She shares the most screentime with Ben. She is one of the top ten characters in part 7.

Best Scene
Part 7: Beverly flirtatiously explores the uncanny vibrations of the Great Northern with Ben.

Best Line
“You're a good man, Ben.”

Beverly Offscreen

Part 1: As soon as Beverly has left the room, Jerry begins needling his brother. He asks if she's the "new girl," or rather "new woman," but that respectful veneer drops away a moment later when he asks Ben if he's "banged her yet." Ben acts shocked and protests that his new employee is married, though Jerry wryly notes that hasn't stopped Ben in the past. They continue to banter back and forth, riffing on the Aretha Franklin anthem "Respect."

Part 10: Massaging his temples after a furious call from his ex-wife (who was just attacked by their grandson), Ben caves into his desire for relief and calls out, "Beverly? Do you want to have dinner with me?" She does not respond; is she even there or is Ben making a merely rhetorical gesture? Moreover, does the scene take place before or after he declines to pursue a romance? In terms of the dramatic/episodic order it's after. But based on the timing of when Cooper's key would arrive and the sheriff would know about the attack on Miriam, among other factors, this scene must actually take place before that second encounter (in fact, it most likely takes place even before the first). Obviously its primary purpose is as a comedic beat, but it certainly confuses the overall plotting. 

Additional Observations

• A whole other arc could be spun from Beverly discovering the Laura backstory, including this "good man"'s involvement with the underage murder victim who worked as a prostitute at his very own brothel. Of course, that's not really where season 3 is at - the redemption arc of late season 2 has apparently become a lifelong project for Ben and the series is more interested in encouraging rather than undermining sympathy for this one-time archvillain. Even so, when Beverly compliments him we can sense some weary reticence on Ben's part; he's happy to let her think that's the case, but he's afraid he knows better.

• Lynch loves his cryptic double-name conceits (think Bob and Mike and Bobby and Mike, Phillip Jeffries and Phillip Gerard, Dougie Milford and Dougie Jones, Richard Horne and Linda the unseen trailer park resident and "Richard and Linda" whom the Fireman and Diane reference). One of the most baffling of these repetitions is Beverly Paige and, eventually, Carrie Page. This is not all that common of a surname, so it can't be a coincidence...right? Of course the two names are spelled differently, so if there is some sort of relationship it's probably more allegorical than literal. The characters are not very similar although both of their homes have an immobile man in their living room, whose presence they seem keen to escape (apologies to Tom for the analogy). Beyond that, I'm not sure. How many pages were missing from that diary again?

Next (active on Wednesday, February 8 at 8am): Darya
Previous: Gersten Hayward

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(at the time of publication, this includes full entries on new or revised characters among #77 - 52)

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