The latest from the creator of Sex and the City is reportedly a comedy-drama, in which Lily Collins promotes the American way.
Sometimes, I couldn’t figure out what the French had done to deserve Emily in Paris (Netflix). This comedy-drama, while it is light on both, is a platform for Lily Collins to stroll around Paris wearing gorgeous clothes and refusing to speak French. If it’s a metaphor for American imperialism, then it’s apt. But if it’s an attempt to make the rom-com more appealing for streaming audiences, then it falls on its six-inch heels.
The series follows the misadventures of Emily, a marketing specialist who works in Chicago and has no plans to move abroad. Her boss, who is going to Paris as soon as she is pregnant, passes the European transfer on to her underling. The hitch, as well as a season-long running joke, is that Emily doesn’t know French, despite her convictions that she can survive on her “fake it till you make it” attitude. In reality, she gets by being adorable and asking everyone around her to speak English without so much as asking whether they can.
The action soon switches to Paris, or at the very least, a comical-book depiction of it. The series begins with four minutes in Paris, or at the very least a comedic representation of it. The first half of the season is an exorcism for all of France’s clichés that the writers could possibly conceive: the Moulin Rouge, rich women in couture letting their tiny dogs crap on the street, exquisite steak, chain-smoking, wine for breakfast, men in expensive suits talking freely about sex, decent pastries and a dislike for American culture.
If this is what Emily is supposed to symbolize, she certainly deserves it. You mention a stereotype, and within the first three episodes, Emily has not only encountered it but has attempted to correct it in order to fit the American way. A supporting character occasionally points out that this is wrong, although it mostly goes unnoticed.
The tension is between what we are supposed to think of her and who we should identify with. There is some tone confusion as to whether she is a clumsy, tactless alien we are meant to ridicule or an average woman who can do anything. Collins has a pleasant, cheerful demeanor that isn’t present elsewhere and brings a sunny disposition that livens up the narrative.
However, as a character, she is tone-deaf to the point of amorality; one particular love triangle culminates in a manner that I believe is intended to be romantic but feels more like an unforgivable betrayal.
Darren Star is also the creator of Sex and the City (one of the few campy-funny lines might have come straight from Samantha Jones: “Oh my God, I’m terrified,” says Emily about a loud, broadcast-to-the-building orgasm). Younger was also created by Star.
That is why I think Younger has a wider appeal. It mocks the age-obsessed world of a certain section of the creative industries, publishing, and does so with humor. Emily in Paris is overly sweet to the point of being unrealistic, and it appears to be too awestruck by its environment to deliver the barbs that are required.
Inexplicably, despite the fact that this show is far better if you stop thinking about rhyme or reason and simply gaze at the vistas, Emily suddenly switches from selling pharmaceuticals to being the driving force of luxury fashion and beauty (and also champagne because it’s French, right?), one of Paris’ most established businesses. Her social media skills attract a whole army of businessmen who appear similar to David Gandy, and her Instagram account of an American girl eating croissants transforms her into a true influencer.
Without the social media spin, this may have been a frothy excuse to pass by with the pretty frivolity, but at the conclusion, I was ready to trash my phone and go back to cups on a string. Emily is forced to say things like: “To build a brand, you must engage meaningfully on social media,” and “You’re an excellent brand ambassador,” but it transforms into a time-consuming business meeting instead. The film’s other characters are all thin to the point of translucent, and even Sylvie, the Devil Wears Prada-style supervisor, is self-evident that she is superior.
One thing to bear in mind about the show is that, while it may not be exactly what you’d want your life to look like in ten years, it does look fantastic; perhaps owing to Paris’ current distance. Emily is frequently too unadventurously dressed in every scenario, and there’s usually a line so absurd that I have to laugh. But Emily in Paris takes a long time to reveal its caustic side, and even when it does, there isn’t enough of it to cut through.
Cast Leads: Lily Collins, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Ashley Park, Lucas Bravo, Samuel Arnold, Bruno Gouery
Director: Andrew Fleming, Peter Lauer, Zoe R. Cassavetes, Jennifer Arnold, Katina Medina Mora
Producer: Lily Collins, Shihan Fey, Michael Amodio, Raphaël Benoliel, Stephen Joel Brown
Written by: Grant Sloss, Alison Brown, Joe Murphy, Kayla Alpert, Emily Goldwyn, Ali Waller, Matt Whitaker
Music: Chris Alan Lee, James Newton Howard
Director Of Photography: Hugues Espinasse