- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
There’s pure pleasure in realizing that Emily in Paris’ producers know at least half their audience hates — HATES — Emily Cooper.
Like the oddly exquisite sting of pressing on a wound, Lily Collins’ gauche, jumped-up American marketing executive thrills me every time she pouts, whines or sulks in defeat. If the writing staff truly had no clue her frequent humiliations prickle delicious derision in many of our hearts, they wouldn’t have had her (and her precious smartphone) gloriously sprayed in a stranger’s blood this latest season. The construction of Emily in Paris is a delicately choreographed feast, the writers tasked with simultaneously endearing her to the un-ironic enthusiasts while serving her on a silver platter to the hungry haters. A good time is had by all!
Emily in Paris
Airdate: Wednesday, December 22
Cast: Lily Collins, Ashley Park, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Samuel Arnold, Bruno Gouery, Camille Razat, Lucas Bravo, Lucien Laviscount, Kate Walsh
Creator: Darren Star
You can interpret Darren Star’s hit Emmy-nominated Netflix comedy through multiple lenses: as a biting satire of femininity; as a sympathetic portrait of an Ugly American; as a transmogrified Sex and the City fan fic where Carrie ends up living her Paris dream instead of giving it all up to marry Big. (We all saw how well that turned out.) Emily in Paris, though, is also a document of redemption.
Emily Cooper doesn’t exactly arrive in Paris a rube with Cinderella fantasies — she’s already educated, fashionable and a rising star in her field. But she’s missing finesse. That je ne sais quoi. Where confectionary Season 1 explored culture shock and culture clash, meatier Season 2 delves into Emily’s personal growth. Her emotional progression is gradual and almost imperceptible until the last two episodes of the season, when you suddenly realize that yes, she might still be grating to the last, but she’s no longer the wide-eyed naïf she was when she stepped out of that cab in the fifth arrondissement. There’s hope for Emily just yet.
In the first season, the Chicago-based junior exec receives a promotion and is sent to Paris for a short-lived stint to represent the interests of her American conglomerate, which has recently acquired a French boutique marketing firm. At Savoir, she encounters a handful of suspicious snobs whom she eventually… sort of… wins over with her good-faith efforts (even if she consistently bungles client relations and conceitedly thinks she can right every wrong).
The 20something also collects a bunch of love interests, makes a couple of good friends and sleeps with one of their boyfriends after a misunderstanding. The latter development unfortunately keeps Season 2 leaden for several of its 10 half-hour episodes as Emily steeps in guilt and secrecy.
Overall, the second season is just as springy and munchable as the first, aside from the many, many superfluous musical interludes featuring Emily’s disgraced billionairess bestie Mindy (Ashley Park) busking with her new street band. (Don’t think me too mean — I used to fast forward through the Glee songs to get to the narrative. Because I’m a masochist.) Emily continues to navigate her love triangle with lifeless chef Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) and her seemingly honey-sweet friend Camille (Camille Razat). At the end of the previous season, Emily bedded Gabriel under the impression he had ended things with Camille and was leaving Paris to start his own restaurant in Normandy, only to learn he took a last-minute opportunity to stay in the city after all. Camille’s heartache over her breakup spurs Emily to try to people-please her way out of this mess, pushing Gabriel and Camille back together, despite her lingering feelings for him. Quels imbéciles!
After all this puttering, not to mention a sluggish rehashing of Season 1’s faux pas and comedies of error, Season 2 finally picks up in the fourth episode, when Emily must face the consequences of her actions. This season highlight forces her to confront her Americanness: her tendency to want to fix instead of listen, her “work hard, play never” stubbornness and her dismissal of the French language. After her Savoir team pressures her to finally learn French, Emily lets Luc take her to a screening of Truffaut’s New Wave love-triangle classic, Jules et Jim, leading to some satiating moments for the hatewatchers. If Collins, the weakest of the main cast, ever does receive an award for this show, it would not be for her dramatic delivery but for how expertly she butchers her French pronunciation to emphasize Emily’s lack of sophistication. You can’t just put a Midwesterner in an eccentric beret and call her mademoiselle.
Speaking of which, I’d love to know why this bish chooses to dress like a mid-90s Barbie doll. The costumes by designer Marylin Fitoussi are visual showstoppers — such as Emily’s ruffled cold-shoulder magenta top/woolen Millennial pink tweed schoolgirl skirt combo or her cerulean-and-chartreuse plaid off-the-shoulder sweetheart neckline and puffy sleeved mini dress — but look egregious on a human woman existing in the world.
At least Emily gets to take her mind off the inert chef when she meets cynical suit Alfie (Lucien Laviscount), a cockney-accented financier brat from her French class.
Emily in Paris’ strength is not in its plots or dialogue but its characterizations. (Beware a “conjugate” v. “consummate” pun in one of the early episodes.) As in the first season, the most valuable people on screen are Emily’s coworkers. This season, her exasperated supervisor Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) finally becomes our hero’s Miranda Priestly, ascending into the spiky mentor role we were all patiently awaiting. Leroy-Beaulieu — alluring, steely — recalls Isabelle Huppert at her smirkiest. Like Emily, Sylvie finds herself in a very European love quadrangle this go-around. Additionally, Bruno Gouery as mustachioed weirdo Luc, Emily’s champion, and Samuel Arnold as snarky glamourist Julien, Emily’s frenemy, both provide the most consistent humor of anyone in the cast. (“Everyone’s looking for a French daddy,” Julien quips at one point. He’s not wrong.)
However, it is Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice) who gives the true acting masterclass this season as Emily’s Chicago boss Madeline in a guest turn near the finale. Walsh is hilarious and high-spirited, playing a woman so tacky and corporate that you can’t help but recognize just how much Emily has matured since the pilot. Even she can’t help but wince at the, well, Americanness of it all. I demand the spinoff Madeline in Paris! In the meantime, Emily may be a sniveling little careerist, but she’s our sniveling little careerist.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day