Series Review: “Emily in Paris”
From the Creator of Sex & The City, a charming confection about the transformational effect of The City of Lights on a young American workaholic.
Admittedly, Emily in Paris may not dazzle a more seasoned viewer with the same complexity of nuance of its predecessor, but it is indeed this generation’s Sex & The City. Created by S&TC’s Darren Star (the genius who made Cosmopolitans, Sexual Abandon, Sisterhood, and New York City synonymous with everything chic) Emily in Paris crosses the pond to explore the very origins of ‘Chic’, with mostly charming success. Oh, and the wardrobe choices are eye-popping.
In the digital landscape of Instagram influencers and followers, Chicago whiz kid Emily Cooper rocks the social media world, creating instant ad campaigns and slogans for her agency’s clients, seemingly on a whim. Played with a sly grinned charm by Lily Collins, Emily’s got it all: a cool job with a boss who’s grooming her for greatness in a city that’s home base and a boyfriend who’s a sure thing if there ever was one. Until she has to make a choice between sure & steady and a year-long assignment at her company’s newly acquired boutique luxury-brand marketing agency in Paris. Before you can say Bon Voyage, a linguistically challenged Emily hits the ground running in a Paris which both exceeds her expectations of beauty as well as proves itself infuriating for its native population of prickly and opinionated people. Her obvious, energetic enthusiasm and workaholic American ethos — topped with the unforgivable transgression of not learning French in advance of her arrival — make her an instant professional outcast. Except for her handsome downstairs neighbor who’s an accomplished local chef, and the irreverent Chinese heiress moonlighting as a nanny (who she meets in the Luxembourg Gardens), Emily is alone for the first time in her life. In the most romantic city in the world.
As time goes by, Emily’s sheer industriousness, creativity and refreshingly American sensibilities begin to make an impression on some co-workers as well as the VIP clients her hostile boss is loathe for her to access. And of course, it’s not long before Romance comes knocking on Emily’s door from a variety of suitors, and she must decide how much of her American values she’s willing to suspend (if not replace entirely) in order to embrace the excitement and allure of a place she’s only dreamed of. But the question remains: how much America is Emily willing to part with to become more than a fleeting visitor in the France that can teach her so much about how to Live?
Much as New York City was the beating-heart plot device behind Sex & The City, Paris is very much the “moveable feast” (a term penned by Ernest Hemingway generations ago) in Emily in Paris. Indeed, the City of Lights has rarely been filmed in such loving homage as it has here. And with the social media conceit that runs through the series (by virtue of Emily’s own expertise) we experience a youthful, dynamic city bursting with beauty and pleasure. Of course, Emily in Paris, light Comedy that it is, deals in mostly generic tropes having to do with European pleasure-seeking vs. American Puritanism, and the frisson between the American ethos of Living to Work as opposed to the French (and Italian) counterpart: Working to Live. These debates seem to be baked into this kind of fish-out-of-water story, which doesn’t at all detract from the easy on the eyes fun of Emily in Paris.
Truth be told, though, the painfully rail-thin Lily Collins’ Emily Cooper — as lovely and mostly charming as she is — cannot hold a match to the equally rail-thin Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carey Bradshaw. Perhaps it’s the strong ensemble cast of soul sisterhood that made Sex & The City so much more than a sexy romp thru the Big Apple. Or maybe it was Carey’s self-doubting, imploring narrator that drew us in at the top of each episode, asking that week’s singleton question du jour. Or maybe it’s simply the utter gravitas of NYC as compared to the more ephemeral and quixotic nature of Paris, at least the Paris embodied in Emily’s world. Paris or New York? Whether your tastes run flirty or flinty, frothy or foamy, Emily in Paris is indeed an amuse-bouche that will leave you hungry for more. Vive la Difference!
An instant hit on Netflix, Emily in Paris has already been renewed for a second season.
Emily in Paris is presently streaming on Netflix.
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