Many dream of strolling aimlessly through a quaint European city in effortlessly stylish fashion. For Chicago marketing executive Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), this fantasy becomes reality when her boss’ unexpected pregnancy leaves her with a big job opportunity. In a whirlwind, Emily moves to Paris to provide an American perspective to a veteran French marketing firm.
Created by Darren Starr, of “Sex and the City” fame, “Emily in Paris” explores culture clashes as Emily discovers croissants, Parisian men and a vastly different workplace. The dramedy features 10 half-hour long episodes and debuted Oct. 3 as a comforting escape into a world of low-stakes and high reward.
Emily runs in lace tops, owns Chanel bags like they’re from Target and has a postcard-esque view from her cozy apartment. She runs an Instagram where she posts poorly angled selfies and hashtags everything — and still manages to accumulate a large following. Problems rise and fall like the sun, never escalating to the brink of true disaster. Her life is pretty peachy.
“Emily in Paris” is warm, inviting and soft. It’s safe in the same sense as a Hallmark movie — viewers never have to worry anything bad will occur. That’s a slight for some but for those who want to watch an overly stylized show of frills and fun, “Emily in Paris” is a goldmine.
Collins (“Love, Rosie,” “Mirror Mirror”) fails to sell the role of Emily as convincingly as she could but she still provides some charm in her performance. The material for the character is nothing exceptional and an actress of Collins’ caliber could only do so much anyway.
Philippine-Leroy Beaulieu steals the show as Sylvie, Emily’s boss in Paris. She’s haughty, condescending and an ice queen played in excellent form. Sylvie works as an anti-hero of the show given Emily’s generally annoying demeanor.
The overt “fish out of water” concept with Emily the American swimming in a French sea is a bit derivative and leads to many irritating moments for Emily. Her character has kid show tendencies as a tryhard who enters the workplace and immediately knows just what to do.
Unlike Carly Shay of Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” though, Emily isn’t that charming. Perhaps Miranda Cosgrove could’ve worked in the role where Collins doesn’t. Or, maybe the writing that works for kids’ shows doesn’t land as well when the plots are aimed at an adult audience.
Styled by Patricia Field (“The Devil Wears Prada,” “Sex and the City”), fashion acts as its own character in the show. Unfortunately, many of the outfits fail to be chic and look more like costumes. Lots of patterns, colors and layers create a gaudy look. Despite not being super stylish, though, the characters’ outfit choices are nicely stylized. Each character has a wardrobe that makes sense and is unique to their personality, which is a nice complement.
Not only are the outfits fun to look at, the entire show looks gorgeous with warm color grading and stunning cinematography that effectively captures Paris as a dreamland. Even when the plots aren’t great, the show is a treat to watch. It’s true lifestyle porn in every sense — well, not every sense as it’d be ineffective porn.
Most of the side characters are underbaked and overly simplified. Luc (Bruno Gouery) is an aggressively sexual coworker with an electrocuted hairstyle. Julien (Samuel Arnold) is sassy and milked for exposition. They don’t seem to have careers outside of being sidekicks. But hey, if it pays.
Emily’s pretty boy neighbor Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) is a dull microcosm of romantic interests. He’s arrogant and lacks personality yet the writers present him as some irresistible catch. Any “will they-won’t they” plot the writers attempt with Emily and Gabriel falls flat as a result. Both of them bring little to the table personality wise — why root for two duds to get together?
New friends Mindy (Ashley Park) and Camille (Camille Razat) fall into Emily’s lap like the plot devices they are. As a Chinese heiress who fled after a disgraced appearance on a singing competition TV show to become a Paris au pair, Mandy’s life is a real saga. Yet, her screen time often boils down to being a basic best friend character who wears furs and drinks wine at 10 a.m.
Park delivers an over-the-top performance that brings theatrical energy to the character, but with what should be such a dynamic character, the writing misses the mark.
Razat shines as Camille, even if she is the epitome of a rich French girl stereotype. Her fashion and confidence set her a part as one to watch, and hopefully future seasons will give her more spotlight.
Despite its shortcomings, “Emily in Paris” is everything it needs to be. It’s endlessly happy and truly feels like a vacation to watch. The plots aren’t special and the acting is simply adequate but the scenery and atmosphere elevate the show massively.
“Emily in Paris” is available to stream on Netflix.