“Emily in Paris” is mediocre, but in the enjoyable way

By Abby Ramirez

On October 2, Netflix released “Emily in Paris,” a new comedic drama following the life of Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), an expert in social media strategy from Chicago, Illinois. After her boss finds out she is pregnant, Emily seizes the opportunity to fill in for her as the “American point of view” at a Parisian marketing firm. Despite her excitement to be in the “City of Love,” her inability to speak French and the snarky attitudes of her new colleagues make her experience a little more challenging than expected. 

After a long string of disappointing, embarrassing TV shows released by Netflix this year, I didn’t have very high expectations for “Emily in Paris.” I assumed that it would be mediocre at best. However, because the creator of the show is Darren Star, creator of TV hits “90210” and “Sex in the City,” I thought that it might at least be be enjoyable kind of mediocre, and it was. 

The acting, though entertaining, was awkward at times. However, I don’t think that this was the fault of any of the actors. The constant references to the glory of Paris, Emily’s inability to understand the culture, and the odd banter she has with Camille (Camille Razat), a Parisian girl she befriends, made it much harder for some of the actors to avoid being cringe-worthy, and ultimately brought down the quality of the show. Luckily, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Bruno Gouery, and Samuel Arnold’s performances were consistently amusing and saved the show from total disaster. Their French heritage aided their seamless portrayals of their characters and made watching their witty banter, whether in French or English, very captivating. 

Even if the lines were cliche, Emily’s character progression as well as the development of those around her was genuinely fun to watch. Though the arch was predictable, her ability to adapt to her surroundings, persevere, and make friendships with those around her was what kept me watching. Emily is a character you can root for, especially for Americans who have experienced hostility in Paris. Unfortunately, the way her love life unfolded was disappointing and irritating to watch. As a passionate romantic comedy fan, to me, Emily’s romantic journey was incredibly anticlimactic, predictable, and bland. 

Fortunately, the unchanging behavior of antagonists and side characters, especially Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), was almost as enjoyable as seeing Emily struggle to remember what floor her apartment is on. They were consistently rude and witty, and I appreciate consistency in a show that makes me cover my eyes in embarrassment. 

If you remove the overly cliche lines and scenes from the show, however, “Emily in Paris” had the potential to be something really great. The location and set design are bound to make any viewer want to visit Paris, even if the Parisian characters intimidate them. Cinematographers Steven Fierberg and Alexander Gruszynski made the most of every skyline and street view shot they filmed, making sure to highlight the romance and culture that seemingly radiates from the city. The set designs of the restaurant outside Emily’s apartment and the extravagant living/office space of Pierre Cadault (Jean-Christophe Bouvet) highlighted the quaint and luxurious aspects of Paris in a way that made the difference seem harmonious. 

If the sets and locations were not captivating enough, the wardrobes put the show over the top. For the characters in “Emily in Paris,” every day was fashion week. Each character’s style was unique and amplified their personalities. The ways in which they dressed seemed to exaggerate the differences between Emily and the Parisians, making her seem like even more of an outsider, although somehow defiant and confident at the same time. Their high end, trendy outfits tied the show together and distracted viewers from the awkward scenes when needed. 

To an American teenage girl, all of the references to the glory and beauty of Paris may have been inspiring and captivating.That said, Parisians may not feel the same way. Many characters in the show are avid at holding Emily accountable for being unappreciative of the culture and way of life around her, and get annoyed with her lovestruck point of view on multiple occasions. Citizens of Paris may feel the same, or possibly even more aggravated with Emily’s character after watching the show. 

Despite the occasional subpar writing and Emily’s disappointing love life, I would watch the show again if they made a second season. The screenplay and awkward scenes ultimately made the whole show mediocre, but I’m sure I’ll find myself skipping through episodes some time in the future just to enjoy the views and wardrobe. 

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