TV Review: “Emily in Paris” is all Fluff and Tulle But No Real Substance

From Darren Star, the same writer/producer that brought us “Sex in the City,” comes Sex and the City 2.0 — but in a different city. Filled with love triangles, misadventures, crazy friends, and a standout wardrobe in the City of Lights, “Emily in Paris” is a rushed look at a young expat’s misadventures and exploits in Paris.

Emily (Lily Collins) is a bright-eyed twenty-something marketing executive in Chicago whose life is on the up and up — she has a cool job that she loves and a handsome and devoted boyfriend — until one day, she’s given a last-minute opportunity she can’t say no to. She has to fill in for her pregnant boss and be the “American eyes and ears” for the transitions of a client so she has to move to Paris for a few months with little notice. Emily is a planner and maps everything out and when she breaks the amazing career-defining news to her boyfriend, she’s already mapped out visitation schedules and all and he seems to be pretty on board. She moves into a furnished Parisian flat and almost immediately, we see that this is going to be somewhat of a culture shock for the very American, “by-the-book” Emily. Once she begins her first day at the Paris office, there are signs that this isn’t going to go as smooth as she thought — and her overeager personality isn’t going to help.

Right off the bat, Emily’s “happy-go-lucky” attitude and failure to learn French rubs her Paris boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), the wrong way. These two aren’t going to be friends — at least not right away as Emily had hoped. Then there are her two co-workers who serve as the comedic relief, Julien (Samuel Arnold) and Luc (Bruno Gouery); they are very colorful and try to help Emily navigate the gulf between her American culture and Parisian sensibilities. Very soon after leaving Chicago, her boyfriend (Roe Hartrampf) has had enough of the long-distance relationship and gives Emily an ultimatum. Seeing the possibilities of this new job in this new city, Emily calls it off and dives headfirst into her new Parisian life — but its not a fairytale story. Emily’s eagerness coupled with her ignorance of French culture and ways of doing stuff lands Emily into one messy situation after another — but luckily, she’s quick on her feet and her tenacity and creativity help her come out on top every time.

But “Emily in Paris” wouldn’t be a “Parisian” drama without a little romance — and there are lots of that thanks to the constant rotation of Parisian men (not all of whom are eligible bachelors) that enters in an out of Emily’s life. Soon enough, Emily is looking at love, romance, and relationships the same way all of the Parisian characters seem to. There’s her downstairs neighbor, Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) a handsome up-and-coming chief, Mathieu Cadault (Charles Martins) the playboy business manager for famed designer Pierre Cadault (Jean-Christophe Bouvet), the snobby professor, and even one of her new Parisian friend’s brothers. So between work and the bevy of gorgeous guys, Emily’s got her hands full becoming a social media influencers and taking the internet by storm — but she’s still feeling somewhat lonely since she’s somewhat isolated and treated like a pariah at work, particularly by Sylvie (maybe it’s her American-ness or her youth). One day while taking yet another lunch break alone, Emily happens upon a fellow English-speaker in nanny Mindy (Ashley Park) who happens to come from a wealthy Chinese family but ran away from her planned out life and has dreams of becoming a singing sensation. The two bond quickly over their outsider-ness and Mindy is there every step of the way as Emily maneuvers work mishaps and love triangles.

Since it’s from the same writer/producer of the pop culture phenomenon “Sex and the City,” there are nods and elements of that iconic late ’90s- early-2000s show throughout this series — whether its Emily’s loud standout wardrobe which doesn’t really fit into the more subdued effortlessly chic French style (which instantly evokes Carrie Bradshaw’s trendsetting style) or the constant rotation of suitors and whirlwind romances, the quirky group of girlfriends or even some of the more iconic locations and scenes (remember when Carrie went to Paris with Aleksandr Petrovsky???). “Sex and the City” is written all over “Emily in Paris.” At its core, this series is really just about pointing out the difference between American culture and French culture — whether its views on work-life balance (“We work to live while you live to work”) or workplace culture and the whole #MeToo movement (or #BalanceTonPorc “out your pig” in France) or thoughts on sexuality and sexism and being politically incorrect. The series does a lot to reinforce a lot of French stereotypes (ie. the French are mean, as seen with Sylvie) or that they don’t really like Americans (but it is more so that they don’t like people who come over to their country and don’t bother to at least try and speak their language or learn their customs). But to be honest, every American in this series was kinda annoying and obnoxious, from Emily to the American streetwear designers Grey Space to the American movie star that Emily has to “babysit” one night.

But this wouldn’t be a nod to “Sex and the City” without the elusive and unattainable “Mr. Big” type character for Emily — and it is definitely here (even though you’re not quite sure which guy it’ll be) in Emily’s love triangle situation. She falls for the guy she never had a chance with but she savors the moments they have together. The main selling point or bright spot for “Emily in Paris” is Lily Collins — she seems perfectly made for this role. But in the end, everything seems rushed from the very beginning. There are a lot of interactions that seem forced and awkward. The series is very predictable and just feels like a rehashing of “SATC” (even William Abadie who plays Antoine Lambert one of Emily’s biggest clients and Charles Martins appeared on “SATC”) mixed with “The Devil Wears Prada.” “Emily in Paris” just continues to perpetuate the romanticization of Paris and the French lifestyle with a few subtle digs (like the joke about French bureaucracy) at the French thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing really new to see here — besides the French actors whose faces may be new to American audiences.

Emily in Paris is now available to binge-watch on Netflix

Written by
LV Taylor is an entertainment attorney, freelance writer and film lover. With previous experience in the music, fashion publishing and sports worlds, LV works with all types of creators and creatives helping to build and protect their brands and artistic visions. It is through this work that LV cultivates her love for film and writing. Her love for film was ignited in middle school as a drama student when she first discovered Turner Classic Movies and fell in love with classic Hollywood. LV is also a budding producer having produced a short film with more in the pipeline. She believes in the power of a beautiful or engaging story that allows one to see the world from a different point of view and speak a common language. LV shares her passion for film and good storytelling through her writing and reviews for sites such as AwardsCircuit.com and Musings of a Streaming Junkie.

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