If you’re looking for an escape from the pandemic’s throes, look no further than Netflix’s new collaboration with Darren Star, Emily in Paris.
The series benefits largely from the scenery as it filmed in a pre-COVID world right in the heart of Paris. The sights are stunning, and while Star and the producers didn’t know it at the time, upon its premiere, it would be a reprieve filling in a void of wanderlust for many who have been confined to their homes (and home offices) since March. It especially piqued my interest as my May trip to Paris was cancelled due to the pandemic. I’m living vicariously through Emily while also knowing I wouldn’t have nearly as many epic adventures or flirtatious romances.
Falling in love with the picturesque scenery is one thing, but it’s the show, and the titular character, Emily (Lily Collins), that has to sell audiences.
The pilot episode sets the scene: Emily works at a big marketing firm in Chicago, her boyfriend is forgettable, and the moment her boss finds out she’s pregnant from one of her several one-night stands and can’t go to Paris to complete the merger of luxe firms, she sends Emily. Emily’s boyfriend isn’t too pleased and they attempt the whole long-distance thing for a bit, but it’s clear that Emily’s mindset is international while her boyfriend is happy staying local forever.
To audiences, Emily is likable as a lead character, but to her new co-workers at Savoir, especially her uptight manager Sylvie, she’s “ringarde,” or what we later know is a “basic bitch.”
While Collins does a wonderful job carrying the show, the heroine is far too peppy and optimistic for the likes of Paris, and her fashion, though always impeccable, makes her stick out like a sore thumb. Seriously, how does she get around in heels in such a breezy fashion?
She doesn’t follow rules and she’s fearless, which should be admirable, but everything comes so easily for her that it’s not relatable nor is it charming in the way it’s supposed to be. She’s not just a regular gal — she doesn’t have financial burdens (or school loans for that matter), she managed to bring all those staple fashion pieces in one suitcase, and she her biggest issue is which French man she’ll sleep with and to convince her boss to like her.
So, it’s clear why Sylvie has it out for her.
Though, one can argue we don’t ever learn much about Emily other than she came from Chicago where she had a boring life and now she’s living out every American girl’s fantasy.
In our current pandemic climate, it’s also a little hard to digest the notion of an American swooping in as the hero and telling everyone the right way to do things. However, we can all learn from the secondary lesson that hones in on the idea that we can all achieve so much more if we just worked together.
Marketing comes naturally to Emily — and it’s not just because of that Master’s she mentions — as does being an influencer as she stumbles into it after having only a handful of followers upon her arrival in Paris. Look, we’ve all tried to become influencers and can, without a doubt, attest that it isn’t that easy.
Being a Parisian, however, doesn’t come as easily to her. As she helps Savoir evolve and market their clients, those around her both at the company and in her personal life help her navigate her new lifestyle. It’s a gentle reminder that if we just stopped to give each other a chance instead of pointing out difference, we could all learn a lot from each other.
Throughout the 10-episode run (they’re less than 30 minutes each, so they’re digestible), Sylvie is one of the only people that almost never comes around to the idea of Emily. She just doesn’t get why everyone adores Emily, and that’s fine, but her hatred is a little far-fetched and borders on cliche.
Along with Emily’s Americanized notion of the world, the series is riddled with cliche’s and stereotypes from the French disdain for everything to chain smoking up to the men talking freely about sex. Even America’s sweetheart, Brooklyn, is a walking stereotype and a clear example of why people generally don’t like Americans. And Julien, Emily’s gay co-worker (and only person of color on the series) plays right into the “gay co-worker” stereotype and serves little to no purpose other than to provide catty remarks and support.
EMILY IN PARIS (L to R) LILY COLLINS as EMILY in episode 101 of EMILY IN PARIS Cr. STEPHANIE BRANCHU/NETFLIX © 2020
With Sylvie, all of her hatred is fueled by jealousy especially as, again, most things come fairly easy to Emily including workplace successes and romance. It seems every man she comes across, even Sylvie’s lover Antoine, is somehow infatuated by her.
Since the series hails from the creator of Younger, the dynamic between the older boss and the younger employee slightly parallels Liza and Diana’s, but where Diana excels as a feminine goddess that we love to praise, Sylvie falls flat.
Her distaste for Emily doesn’t always make sense — the more Emily succeeds and proves her worth, the more Sylvie hates her — and though the series attempts to paint her as this chic woman, she just seems like a bitter woman unable to embrace change. At one point, an old client said the firm she’s running is “dinosaur” and it’s fitting; she wants the status-quo while Emily is here to shake things up as every ounce of publicity. You know the saying: even bad press is good press.
There’s progress made towards the end of the series when Sylvie un-fires Emily after she once again saves the day after messing it up, but it’s clear that Emily’s journey of proving herself will be an uphill battle. Don’t worry, she’s ready for it.
They always say Paris is for lovers,so you didn’t think there’d be a series without a few romances in the city of love, did you? It’s clear from the beginning that Emily has chemistry with her fourth floor neighbor, Gabriel, but he, of course, has a girlfriend he fails to tell Emily about.
Darren Star found plenty of success with an effective love triangle on Younger, so it’s not surprising this would be the crux of the series. However, unlike on Younger where fans are torn between #TeamJosh and #TeamCharles, there’s no doubt that Emily and Gabriel belong together. All the other men she’s rendezvoused with, including the snob Thomas, Antoine, youngester Timothee, and Mathieu, are just frogs that had to be kissed on her way to charming.
The biggest obstacle in this relationship is Camille, who, like Emily, audiences have a sweet spot for. Maybe it’s cause we meet Camille before we know she’s Gabriel’s girlfriend, maybe it’s because she’s nice to Emily from the moment she meets her, or because she’s genuinely nice, but it’s hard to watch Emily and Gabriel’s relationship unfold knowing it’s going to hurt Camille.
It’s unfortunate to see her caught up in this whole mess and unknowingly betrayed by the two people closest to her.
If the series snags a second season, the relationship drama will amplify as Antoine invested in Gabriel’s career as a chef in Paris, which means he’s staying around and not moving to Normandy.
That seems like good news, but it’s problematic as Gabriel and Emily slept together thinking this was their final goodbye and he was done with Camille for good.
Camille is surely going to want her man back, but what does Gabriel’s heart want?
There’s also drama for Emily and Mathieu, heir to the Cadault fashion empire that she almost destroyed once before. If she wants to stay on Pierre’s good side, keep them as a client, and make Sylvie happy, she can’t ruin this relationship. And that’s why she should’ve listened to her “commandments” of not mixing business with pleasure.
One of the show’s saving graces is Ashley Park, who plays Mindy, and steals every scene she’s in. She’s the heiress to a zipper king in China, which is problematic in its own stereotypical “Crazy Rich Asians” way, but she’s also a nanny who sings in a drag club and encourages Emily to live her best life. I’d watch a show solely focused on her!
The pilot episode was admittedly a little bumpy, and while I was excited for the series, I found myself wondering if maybe the hype was too much.
The series isn’t groundbreaking by any means — not in the way Younger and Sex and the City were — but once you get into the groove, you’ll be hooked on Emily and her international lifestyle. All those complaints won’t bother you if you go into it thinking that it was always meant to be the perfect fantasy of what people dream up Paris to be in their minds.
Then, think about all those Instagram influencers you follow — you know their lives are unrealistic, but they paint a pretty picture; and yes, the show gives you the same dose of endorphins as mindlessly scrolling through your feed for hours.
If you’re in quarantine and looking for an escape, your vacation is only one click away with Emily in Paris. You don’t even need a passport. Just make sure you have a croissant and some macarons ready!