REVIEW: 5 things we love about 'Emily in Paris' (and 5 things that were ‘meh’)
Because everyone’s watching it
It’s the Netflix romcom series that everyone has finished in 48 hours (or less) and has dominated the Top-10 for a full week now, so you know we had to dive head first into Emily in Paris.
Darren Star’s (creator of Sex and the City and Younger) latest frothy creation stars Lily Collins as Emily Cooper – a young, plucky marketing exec from Chicago who accepts a last minute job opportunity at a Parisian firm her company has acquired. What follows is a fun and frivolous mixture of non-ironic berets, poor french pronunciation, hot french chefs, pastries, impossibly successful Instagram accounts and general bubblegum viewing.
While the series has earned some criticism (largely from French critics who have loathed its stale stereotypes about French people and Paris), I found the show to be enjoyable and easy viewing because, let’s face it, this year has been fucking awful and maybe I don’t want to stress about Tom Holland for a full two hours in The Devil All the Time.
Here’s a list of five things we loved (and five things we thought were ‘meh’) about Emily in Paris.
It’s perfect for 2020
It’s a series about a girl landing her dream job and travelling halfway around the world to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Of course this would do well in the year of a global coronavirus pandemic, it’s like a highlight reel of all the nice things we can’t have right now. (Side note, watching them kiss each other on both cheeks throughout the series lowkey gave me anxiety, what has this pandemic done to me?)
On a serious note, the show’s generally light and conflict-free storyline paired with its Instagram-filter version of everyday life makes for super easy viewing, and the short, half hour structure of its ten episodes means that almost everyone I know finished it in one go (except for my co-founder Paula-Ann who doesn’t want to watch past episode two, but she’s a rebel).
I’ll admit, I was surprised at how much of Paris this show actually featured. I was convinced it would be a lower budget production that would mix the odd drone shot of Paris with interior and street scenes shot in California or something. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the entire series was shot on-location in the City of Lights (except for the chateau scenes when Emily visits Camille’s family in Champagne).
The last time I saw Paris in real life was a whole seven years ago, and Emily in Paris has me dying to go back as soon as possible (i.e. when my GoFundMe page gains traction).
Side note, I don’t know exactly where Emily lives and works but Paris is definitely not this clean in my experience. Where is all the graffiti? And the endless clumps of gum on the pavements? How is there not one scene in a gross Metro car??
Patricia Field’s fashion
Love it or hate it, you have to admit the fashion in this show was pretty entertaining! If you feel like the colourful and edgy looks remind you of Sex and the City or The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll be bang on the money, because Oscar-winning costume designer Patricia Field, who worked on both of those iconic productions, heads up design for Emily in Paris.
Her style choices paid tribute to iconic looks like Carrie’s tulle tutu in Sex and the City, and Emily’s chic look at the Paris Opera House was a nod to the timeless beauty of Audrey Hepburn. Overall it feels like a lot of thought and care went into the styling. (Fun fact, Emily’s cute vintage camera phone case was once Field’s personal phone case).
From bucket hats to shoulder pads, berets, bag charms and ascots, this show feels like a Pinterest board of all the clothes we love but would be too scared to actually wear.
Lily Collins (and Emily to an extent)
In truth, I’ve never really been a Lily Collins fan. It’s not to say that I don’t like her, in fact Love Rosie is one of my favourite rom coms, it’s just that she’s never really stood out for me all that much alongside a bigger ensemble cast. Emily in Paris has totally changed that perception though, and I really connected with her fun portrayal of a fairly silly character.
As for Emily herself, I am one of the seemingly minority group who found her really endearing. She’s naive, optimistic, excited and passionate about her work, even if she is super ignorant when she arrives in Paris. (“The arrogance of ignorance,” her co-worker Luc says of her in episode one).
Look, I can see why some people take issue with a young American millennial thinking her way is always the right way, but maybe I wish I had her courage and resilience to stay positive in the face of people finding her annoying all day everyday.
Plus, I’ll confess I resonated with Emily’s sheer joy at a pain au chocolat, and watching her shorting out the entire neighbourhood’s electricity with her American vibrator was a 10/10 way to end the first episode.
It nails the feeling of moving to a new city (if only briefly)
I know first-hand from moving cross-country a few years ago that it can be super intimidating to leave everything and everyone you know behind and have to adjust to a new city with new norms (people in Cape Town drive around traffic circles weirdly!), so I can’t imagine the culture shock of going to a whole new country with a different language.
Emily in Paris shows how tricky it can be to adjust to a new environment (“Did you know this city is laid out in circles, it’s like it’s trying to trick us!”) as well as how hard it can be to make new friends (Emily tries to invite her French teacher for a glass of wine and is nearly charged 50 Euros for an extra class). She should have just done what I did and hung around new acquaintances all the time so that they’re forced to invite you places out of sheer awkwardness (thanks again Courts, Josh and Wes!).
To be honest, Emily seems to get over this whole culture shock fairly quickly (by like episode three) but I’m sure many expats could relate to some of her awkward faux pas, like ordering a side of condoms with her croissant, or incorrectly telling a client she’s “aroused” to be working with him.
(Where we think there’s room for improvement but to be honest, we know we’re reaching with some of these)
Little to no character depth
To be fair, no one wanted this show to be emotionally heavy and complex, as stated above the lack of depth is actually one of it’s big positives at the moment, but I also felt that it was hard to get invested in Emily’s big move and new life considering how little we actually know about her.
Everything we as viewers find out about her past we can count on one hand:
1. Her dad breeds weimaraners
2. Her mom was a teacher at her school
3. She comes from Illinois
4. She has a Masters in communication
5. She was obsessed with Gossip Girl as a teen (who wasn’t?)
I’m not saying we needed an origin story episode or anything but surely at some point while feeling homesick or sad about her breakup she would have needed the comfort of something familiar from her past, like her mother or an American best friend? Her complete lack of character history makes it hard to see why moving to Paris was such a big deal in the first place.
But that’s just my opinion.
It’s maddeningly unrealistic
As with any of Star’s productions, the complete lack of realism in Emily in Paris is one of the things I love to hate. I mean where to start? Emily is a mid level marketing executive who can afford a different Chanel bag for every outfit? She works like 4 hours a day? Her social media campaign for a massive French luxury label was like, one post? Brigitte Macron retweeted a meme about a vagina? There’s no way her lovely apartment is a chambre de bonne (a historically tiny maid’s quarter)? Conveniently everyone she meets in Paris is fluent in English, and then is happy to speak to other French people in English too? Mindy cares for children all day while wearing stilettos, in a city where cobblestones are rife?
This show is as maddening as it is delightful.
The lack of emotional consequence
I know I’m nitpicking here, but Emily really does seem to get over pretty heavy things really quickly.
Her breakup with her serious long-term boyfriend, for example, got like three casual mentions and one Instagram post after the fact, and that was it. I’m not saying we need her to cry in bed for a full episode, but this was the guy she was “engaged to be engaged to”, and it took her less time to get over it than I needed to get over some of my favourite Love Island couples splitting up.
The love triangle (or quadrangle?)
The relationships throughout the series also felt incredibly surface-level, and as a result not all that compelling. The show’s biggest “oh merde!” moment for me was Emily’s realisation that her charming new French bestie Camille is actually dating her super hot neighbour and love interest Gabriel, but it felt like the show failed to capitalise on that fully in later episodes.
Sure, now she feels terrible that she has a crush on (and in fact slept with) her friend’s boyfriend, but the show never invests time in Gabriel and Camille as a couple worth being interested in, so it’s hard to identify with Emily’s conflict seriously.
(Though the fact that she did sleep with Camille’s younger brother and later her boyfriend makes her literally the worst friend in history).
The same goes for Emily and Mathieu (the wealthy, and much older, nephew of one of her major clients) who romances her so quickly that they’re suddenly intimate enough to be going to St. Tropez together over the course of just two episodes. Their “relationship” feels rushed and rather inauthentic considering there’s no real moment of connection between the two (on top of the fact that Mathieu is just the latest in the string of French men who immediately lust after Emily upon meeting her).
All of the above makes the supposed “cliff-hanger” ending (in which Emily finds out Gabriel ,who she just slept with, is in fact staying in Paris instead of moving to Normandy) feel rather flat and self-important, because I personally wasn’t that invested in any of these relationships in the first place…
That. Damn. Instagram. Account
Going back to the whole unrealistic thing, there is no world in which Emily’s basic AF Instagram account would gain like 20,000 followers in a few short weeks, securing her status as an influencer and earning her a job offer of Brand Ambassador for a major cosmetics brand. I mean, she posted a picture of her dropped crêpe and captioned it, “oh crêpe”?
I work in marketing too, and this is like borderline insulting.
Overall, I really did enjoy this series and I’m definitely rooting for series two, even if it’s just to see more of French dreamboat Lucas Bravo (Gabriel).
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