Emily in Paris review: Lily Collins-Darren Star's Netflix Original is an indulgent pandemic watch
Just like Sex and the City sold the idea of an aspirational life in the buzzing (and expensive) New York City, Emily in Paris follows suit.
Darren Star, the creative brain behind Beverly Hills 90210, Sex and the City, and the ongoing Younger, debuted his Netflix Original Emily in Paris this Friday. The show follows Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) from Chicago, sent to Paris to take charge of a French company's social media, after her boss Kate Walsh (Madeline Wheeler) gets pregnant.
Emily is breathless, giddy with happiness on learning that she will spend an entire year in “the world’s most romantic city”. Her bubble is soon burst when her French colleagues are unwelcoming, a little too rude, and averse to her crass American ideas and American ways. Emily lack of proficiency in French and no prior experience working with luxury brands is a dealbreaker for her boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu).
Playing on the existing stereotypes about the French, Emily in Paris stages a culture clash between the visiting Emily and everyone else she encounters. The French here are chain-smokers, drink wine regardless of the time of day, and are a little too free and open about sex. Emily's goal-setting and need for an achievement is a quality instantaneously deemed very American. Her work never stops even after she's out of office, and she never turns down an opportunity to pitch an idea or bag a new client onboard, something her French coworkers absolutely detest.
Emily is a feminist, probably the only one around in the entire show, after her boss sneers, "Cherie, I'm a woman. I'm not a feminist." She schools her client, a perfumer, on the male gaze regarding an ad campaign, who in turn seems to have a completely different definition of empowerment and sexism. There's one thing that remains unsurprisingly common — most men are creeps, even in the city of love, whose advances Emily occasionally turn down.
Sex and the City sold the idea of an aspirational life in the buzzing (and expensive) New York City and Emily in Paris follows suit. She lives in a cute apartment in a presumably hip neighbourhood, sips wine by the Seine, and only dresses in designer clothes (styled by SATC's Patricia Field). While SATC and even Younger have come under fire for their notable lack of diversity in the cast, Emily in Paris tries.
Emily, alone and rejected by her coworkers, soon befriends Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), an heiress from Shanghai working as a nanny for a French couple. Mindy is witty and charming, a fallen star of a Chinese singing reality show, who fled to Paris for a new start. She secretly desires to perform again, and it's fulfilling to watch her regain her confidence. Julien, Emily's catty coworker, is the only other person of colour in the cast, but devoid of any backstory.
The show's narrative stays true to the rom-com genre repackaged for a millennial audience. Of course, her boyfriend back in Chicago does not want to continue their relationship because of the distance, clearing way for her to pursue a Frenchman. Of course, she has a hot Parisian neighbour Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) she is instantly attracted to, but soon crops up his girlfriend Camille (Camille Razat). If its any consolation, in spite of submitting to the tropes, the makers have tried not to let her romantic liaisons dictate the story.
Emily in Paris, with each episode half-hour long, is an easy and indulgent pandemic-watch. For someone who grew up on a steady diet of rom-coms, I binged on it and even cheered for Emily's wins. That's the thing about rom-coms, despite the familiar tropes and predictability, they always ignite a glimmer of hope in you.
Emily in Paris is currently streaming on Netflix.
(All images from Twitter)
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