Review: Netflix’s“Emily in Paris” is All Wrong yet Right On Time

“Emily in Paris”
Lily Collins plays the aloof, culture-proof marketing executive Emily Cooper in the fantastical “Emily in Paris” | Photo Credit: Netflix

“Emily in Paris,” Netflix’s new hit show set in the iconic France capital, is complete merde. That’s French for shit. The latest chick flick from creator Darren Star (Sex and the City, Younger) manages to pack every Franco-American cliché ever created into into 35-minute bites and to deliver us one of the most unlikable characters in prime-time, Emily Cooper .

She’s the perpetually perky, selfie-obsessed-yet self-unaware, junior brand manager from Chicago whose marketing company sends her on an expenses-paid workation to Paris for a year. She’s also that girlfriend who will bang tf out of your man as soon as you leave the room, so watch out. A Carrie Bradshaw, she is not.

Like many critics, I was prepared to hate this dramedy at Emily’s first scalding bonjour. But I ended up enjoying. Its timing is perfect. For Americans dealing with the reality of unemployment, cancelled travel plans, social distancing from loved ones and the inescapable stench of a political shitstorm, “Emily in Paris” offers an irresistible escape to the simpler times of yesteryear.

A few weeks ago I turned to “Emily in Paris” in search of something superficial, fashionable and familiar. The show got the superficial part right.

When I realized that Emily’s basic ass doesn’t bother to learn basic French before moving to Paris, I immediately changed the program’s audio from English to French (with English subtitles). This made her sheer daftness more palatable. As I binge-watched the series last weekend over a bottle of red wine, I gradually suspended myself into the fantasy of Emily’s Paris, which thankfully looks nothing like the Paris I live in today.

In Emily’s Paris, her 6th-floor chambre de bonne studio— the French version of a single room occupancy — spans a generous 600sqft and offers breathtaking views of the city. In reality, such “maid’s quarters” are usually no larger than 100sqft with a shared toilet in the hall. Yet Emily not only successfully navigates six flights of stairs in her elevator-less building in 5-inch stilettos, but also the charming cobblestoned streets on her daily walk to work without so much as twisting an ankle or breaking a heel. Even The Carrie Bradshaw tripped a few times. But why let reality get in the way of pure fantasy?

“Emily in Paris”
Emily’s horrible sense of style reminds me of a time when we actually had the opportunity to dress up regularly for work or a night out. | Photo Credit: Netflix

Which brings me to the show’s fashion, a rare misstep from Sex and the City’s iconic stylist, Patricia Fields. Emily’s hideous outfits seem to clash with her WASPy, nymphish, mid-West personality. Next to her extremely elegant boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy Beaulie), she looks like a girl playing dress-up in the wardrobe department at Moulin Rouge. In one scene Emily wears what appears to be a mini-slipdress and pumps to the office, but adds a blazer for a professional touch.

Her wardrobe choices are better suited for a hot date not a business meeting. The lines there are blurred, too. Every heterosexual male client on the agency’s roster offers Emily their expensive sex and she has no idea what to do with it. Suddenly the #metoo movement feels like so long ago.

The true fashion star is Emily’s new French bestfriend, Camille (Camille Razat) with her well-curated wardrobe. Like most French women, she understands that the answer to that quotidian question — What should I wear today ? — is not: Everything. Less is more. These days, it seems WFH has all but replaced RTW. And watching “Emily in Paris,” I found myself reminiscing of the good old days when I used to pull together the perfect office-to happy-hour work outfits. And sometimes got it wrong.

“Emily in Paris”
Camille Razat plays Camille, a friendly and generous champagne heiress who makes the mistake of befriending Emily. | Photo Credit: Netflix

In Emily’s Paris, dress codes and girl codes do not apply. Despite being a millionaire man magnet, she instead hooks up with her bestie Camille’s financially insecure chef boyfriend, Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), who lives downstairs. Sure he’s perfectly coiffed, tall, handsome with a cute accent and makes a bloody good steak. But these men are a dime a dozen in Paris.

“Emily in Paris”
Emily’s inexplicable charm has men lining up to be her suitors in Paris. | Photo Credit: Carole Bethuel/Netflix

“Emily in Paris” generously offers viewers so many reasons to hate-watch. But it also plays into our collective nostalgia for a magical time and place — pre-Covid Paris anyone? Much like our social media last year, Emily’s Instagram posts are filled with frivolous moments enjoying the city and her friends — without masks.

The irony is if “Emily in Paris” had been released just one year earlier, it would not have been nearly as successful or tolerable. Despite being universally panned by viewers and critics, the show has ranked on Netflix’s most watched list since it’s debut.

Last year I spent the summer Paris, enjoying the bar scene, restaurants, picnic at Versailles garden, motorcycle roadtrips to Normandie, drinking wine and dancing kizomba along the Seine river, flirting with hot French guys and flying freely to Madrid and New York City. All without fear or frustration.

As I write this, Paris is on a newly imposed semi-lockdown in response to a second wave of new Covid-19 cases. Masks are compulsory indoors and outdoors. Parisiens must wear them on the streets, parks, stores, schools, offices and shared transportation.

Bars and nightclubs are closed. Restaurants and bistros must operate at no more than 50 percent capacity and close at 9 p.m. Furthermore, Parisiens are not allowed to leave their homes between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless they have a special exit cerificate. And gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. This is the real Paris. So you’ll understand why I’d rather have Emily’s, even if only for 10 episodes.

Jaja Nwokeabia

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Jaja Nwokeabia

Jaja Nwokeabia

Writer. Reader. Conservative. Traveller. Adventure Capitalist. @VCU Alum. I write about Politics, Culture, Sex & Mental Health — not in any particular order.