From the writer of Sex & the City comes a much-hyped tale of another city.
Specifically, a tale of a young ambitious marketing executive named Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), who leaves her unsupportive boyfriend behind in Chicago and moves to Paris to join a prestigious marketing firm and help market luxurious brands with ‘”an American point of view”, as she puts it. There, she juggles work, romance, and relationships – much like the beloved NYC foursome version. That is exactly how it is sold – if you love Sex & the City, you will love this. Which for me, is not far wrong.
Emily struggles to adapt to her new workplace. She receives disdain for not speaking French. Colleagues don’t invite her to lunch. Then there is her cold, calculating and humourless boss, Sylvie, (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), who relishes making her challenging and at times humiliating. Being asked to market vagina suppositories isn’t exactly glamourous. Emily says that work, “makes her happy”, yet her colleague points out to her, “maybe you don’t know what it is to be happy”.
A criticism is Emily’s painful and arrogant ignorance of French culture. And in turn, ours. Turning up to work early is a faux pas it seems, as is asking for your steak well done. She seems more Francophobe than Francophile. Posting ladies smoking outside a gym. Cursing the Metro. Lauding the French fry. Yet she claims to love Paris. What is it about it that she loves so much? The men?
There are certainly plenty to choose from. As her ex-pat Parisian best friend Mindy (Ashley Park) puts it, “you’ve not lived in Paris until you’ve had at least one wildly inappropriate affair.” It just so happens her downstairs neighbour is a stunningly handsome chef named Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) who she inadvertently and frequently runs into, sometimes for omelettes, sometimes with his French girlfriend Camille (Camille Razat), and we get to play voyeur as their relationship unfolds. Then there are the smooth-talking, charismatic clients, some of whom use lingerie gifts, boat rides, or champagne to get Emily’s attention. Of course, Emily uses her own ways to get their attention. It’s as if she wants her crêpe and to eat it too.
For one, her fashion sense is full of colour and pattern. If the atmosphere is tense in relation to whichever entanglement or menage a trois Emily currently finds herself in, then her outfits are anything but. This is in deliberate and stark contrast to the French characters who wear muted, classic tones. The outfits also pay homage to Paris itself – plenty Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Louboutin, to keep the eagle-eyed fashionista amused. Luckily, we expect this from costume designer Patricia Field, who worked on both Sex & the City and The Devil Wears Prada. “Fashion is about looking beautiful”, a designer client tells her. And Emily does.
With her bambi-esque eyes, Hepburn inspired brows and chocolate coloured coiffured curls, she naively yet enthusiastically charms everyone she meets. Well, everyone except her boss, Sylvie. It is no wonder that Lily Collins is now a Brand Ambassador for French perfumery Lancôme.
Encore en fois? The thing about Emily in Paris is that we have been here before. Carrie Bradshaw went to Paris, albeit briefly. She also stepped in merde. Devil Wears Prada protagonist Andy Sachs went to Paris. And in similar doe-eyed, eager to please a tyrannical boss style. What we did not see however was Carrie or Andy sharing her Parisian past times to thousands of followers (Carrie regularly admitted to not knowing how to use a smartphone). And yet it is how this show got its’ name - after Emily’s Instagram handle.
When her boss tells her to delete her account, she seems distraught. Whilst Andy ultimately cut ties with her Boss by ditching her phone in a French fountain, Emily seems hell bent on keeping hers. She cannot bear to part with her career-boosting following and influence.
If what you want is fun and frivolity centred around fashion and female relationships, that is exactly what Emily in Paris will serve you. Not to mention glorious shots of Paris. Predictable? Yes. And we need more story material if Netflix decide to renew for a second season. But it might just be the kind of frolicky escapism we need right now.