On Emily in Paris, the setting is more interesting than the protagonist

  • "Emily’s career shenanigans don’t fare much better than her relationship hijinks," says Gwen Ihnat of Darren Star's Netflix romcom starring Lily Collins. "If she already worked at the corporate headquarters, why is she worried about getting fired all the time? Emily’s evil queen boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), who looks enough like Lea Thompson to make you think that she has a fancy French doppelgänger, is Devil Wears Prada with a French accent and overflowing ashtrays. At least Star’s previous protagonists offered some humor in the face of their plights, but the jokes here are tired as well. Fifty francs if you can guess what happens the first time Emily plugs in her vibrator in her Parisian apartment (shorts out the whole building? Exactamente!). The repeated reference to the 'coq' in Gabriel’s coq au vin at a dinner party is supposed to be hilarious. At least Emily’s verging-from-enemies-to-frenemies coworkers (Samuel Arnold as Luke and Bruno Gouery as Julien) offer some decent French-laced wisecracks. Ultimately, Emily In Paris’ strongest asset is its compelling case for Francophilia. As all of our passports gather dust and European travel is something we can only dream about, the series’ luscious on-location backdrops are drool-worthy, Emily’s frequent high-class events, from influencer luncheons to formal cocktail parties so shimmering we can almost taste the champagne. Collins has enough charm to save Emily from being full-on saccharine, and she’s so stunning that she’s able to pull off every ensemble, from a pink plaid newsboy cap with matching cardigan to Audrey Hepburn-worthy evening gowns. As travelogue and fashion inspiration, Emily In Paris makes for an enjoyable watch—but the familiar plights of its rom-com heroine are easily outshone by the gorgeous, glittering surroundings."


    • Netflix chose the wrong time for a romcom about how great Americans are: "Emily in Paris portrays Emily — and therefore Americans — as arrogant (or perhaps ignorant), unnecessarily loud, overly ambitious, and self-centered," says Kaitlin Thomas. "And while that is certainly the view many around the world have of Americans (and is true of plenty of Americans as well), the series does little to attempt to change that perception. In fact, you can argue it actually goes out of its way to say that Emily's so good at her job because she's American and that her new firm needs her and her American point of view to survive, which feels woefully out of touch with reality, especially because the firm isn't specifically marketing to American consumers."
    • Emily in Paris is a delight that poses the question of what it really means to grow up, against a truly inviting backdrop: "Collins makes the struggle to be oneself compelling — she’s an inherently winsome performer who has never been quite as well used as she is here. She even makes Emily’s unlikable traits (for instance, other than that it is easier for an American audience to watch a show where the characters speak English, there’s no reason Emily shouldn’t at least try to learn French) into demonstrations of will. Her steeliness brushes up appealingly against the show’s more confectionary aspects. Through Emily’s eyes, we see a Paris that’s deliciously itself; the city also brings out the strength of her character, proof of a show that’s significantly better written than it strictly needed to be in order to please the audience. Emily in Paris borrows escapist charm from its setting, but is sophisticated, too, in ways all its own."
    • It's an excruciating exorcism of French cliches: "At times, I wondered what the French had done to deserve Emily in Paris (Netflix)," says Rebecca Nicholson. "This comedy-drama – although it is light on both – is a vehicle for Lily Collins to waltz around Paris in fabulous clothes, refusing to speak French, largely expecting to be seen as adorable for it. If it is a metaphor for American imperialism, then it is an effective one, but if it is an attempt to fluff up the romcom for the streaming age, then it falls over on its six-inch heels."
    • Emily in Paris is like a fun getaway trip with your best friend: "Equal parts a classic fish-out-of-water premise and a perfect encapsulation of why the show is hilarious (like anyone needs help figuring out what Americans think), Emily In Paris spends its 10-episode first season maintaining a tension between earnestness and absurdity that lesser shows would buckle under," says Joshua Rivera. "It helps that Emily is surrounded by all the trappings of great television: breezy scripts, a charming cast of good-looking people, and the lifestyle porn that any good aspirational show has: lavish outfits, glamorous parties, and picturesque views."
    • Emily in Paris quickly grows tiresome: "It’s strange, but Emily in Paris is like scrolling through Instagram," says Kristen Lopez. "It’s a great way to waste time looking at pretty pictures with no depth, taken by beautiful people with the ability to do and call it a job. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’ll be for you. If you’re thinking this is the second coming of Sex and the City, sorry, no dice. Collins and (Ashley) Park are really good though — someone sign them up for something that doesn’t involve macrons."
    • Emily in Paris is a low-stakes show, but it's fun to watch: "In spite of its flaws, the show gets away with this strategy of telling rather than showing that you should root for Emily perhaps more than it deserves to," says Linda Holmes. "Collins is an appealingly fizzy lead, and a hot French neighbor is a good thing, and in the interests of being honest about the critic as a viewer, what happened is what happened: I binged this show all the way through, and I had a lot of fun watching it. It's very pretty to look at, and it has swerves that will feel familiar to viewers of Star's more recent work. Nothing felt surprising, but it was a low-stakes, soapy, comfortable good time. A good way to spend a couple of afternoons. It is what you think it is, for the most part."
    • Emily in Paris pays homage to Carrie Bradshaw and Audrey Hepburn through costume
    • Darren Star on Emily in Paris' inspiration: "I was a bit of a French geek as a kid," he says. "I took French from elementary school to college and I went to Paris by the time I was 19, backpacking in Europe, and then I’d go back as often as I could. I always dreamed about what it’d be like to work and live there. So, that’s sort of where the genesis of the show came from — it’s sort of my experiences having been there. I rented an apartment there for a number of months to sort of step into the shoes of the character. And I just really wanted to share my love of Paris and France but also explore the sort of cultural differences that do exist and have some fun with that. And also do a show there — because TV has gotten to a place where you can actually go and film a series in Paris. I think of it as a big romantic comedy on steroids."
    • Star wanted to deliver escapist fun: "I think it’s escapist entertainment for any time," he says. "Maybe more now. People can vicariously travel to Paris because we can’t actually go there. So I guess in that sense, yes. I think, definitely, we need some fun escapist entertainment, and that’s what the show delivers."
    • Star downplays his flair for writing about women: “I like to say, I think of women as people, not as women,” he said. He writes about women he said, because the genre he works in — romantic comedy — demands it.
    • Lily Collins says working with Darren Star was a no-brainer: "I have been the biggest Darren fan since I was younger," she says. "The pairing of this script and character with Darren was a no-brainer. Right off the page, Emily was electric — and Paris was a huge draw. To take part in a series where the female character gets to go through a real journey of becoming a woman, faced with all these cultural differences, was a really exciting opportunity."

    TOPICS: Emily in Paris, Netflix, Darren Star, Lily Collins

  • More TV Tattle: