Aoife Rooney reviews the much-scoffed at Netflix Original
Almost two weeks after its initial release on Netflix, Emily in Paris is still in the top ten list of viewing choices on the streaming platform. While it has received many less than complementary reviews, I don’t think it’s necessarily as bad as it is being made out to be. The show stars Lily Collins as Emily Cooper, a chirpy, hard-working American who has been relocated to Paris in order to improve Savoir’s, a Parisian boutique marketing firm, social media marketing strategy.
While I have no problem with the premise of the show, the set up and the circumstances that lead the protagonist to this massive change in her professional and personal life is lazy to say the least. Within two short episodes, Emily’s boss in Chicago becomes unexpectedly pregnant, and must assign Emily this new role in Paris. Her boyfriend, Doug, whom she was serious with, cannot commit to a long-distance relationship after approximately a fortnight of her being in France. These two plot points were rushed and felt like a box that needed to be ticked before the actual show could start. While I understand that shows usually start with a change of some sort for the protagonist, this felt forced and formulaic.
Another problem that the show grapples with is the representation of French people and France itself. It is hard to imagine a French person being happy with how they are portrayed. From the overplaying of the clichéd French impoliteness, to the unrealistic fluency of every character's English. It is very clear that it is an American interpretation of Paris; with a lot of baguettes and berets as well as near constant berating of the clueless expat looking to experience the Paris she has seen in movies.
My main issue with the show is Emily’s boss, Sylvie – she treats Emily inappropriately in almost every scene she appears in and it feels almost comical. At one point in the show, she reaches across a conference table and snaps Emily’s phone from her hand, a flagrant and aggressive HR violation to say the least, but it is treated as if it's completely normal in France.
All of this begs the question, why bother watching? For me, I found I enjoyed the tonal aspects of the show as opposed to the actual plot. That characters actually do show development and the imagery of the city is a nice change from the usual American drudgery. The wardrobe is also a compelling factor, as Emily especially has beautiful clothes that she definitely can’t afford.
Sometimes shows like these don’t have to be ground-breaking, or even interesting. Like someone who is on their tenth re-watch of friends and knows each story beat by heart, Emily in Paris is easy to watch. While I probably won’t be lobbying for a second season, I’ll likely return to it in the future. Go in with low expectations, and you might just be pleasantly surprised.