Modern Love is a cute love anthology… but not very modern

Created by John Carney, Modern Love launched on October 18 on Amazon. It is part of a genre, the anthology of love, that has been explored in the past through series like Excellent dates by Bryan Elsley (2013) or the unfair but uninteresting easy by Joe Swanberg (on Netflix). We know the advantages of this format: in theory, there is no possibility of boredom because each story is different (an important factor, love and boredom rarely match on the same screen) and it makes it possible to appeal to stars with excessive schedules, which otherwise. ‘t venture into the wonderful world of the series. In this case, we are happy to find, for example, Dev Patel, Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey or even our favorite “hot priest”, Andrew Scott.

The pitfall to avoid with anthology, and where Modern Love fell down unfortunately is the disparity in the quality of the episodes. The series, however, starts from the same basic material: a selection of essays published in the famous eponymous column of New York Times, which has been in existence for less than 15 years. Eight half-hour episodes each explore stories of love and affection in a different and similar tone old school and the feeling is good. Which is not necessarily a criticism, except that we have the right to expect, with a title like “modern love”, a somewhat more daring and LGBT-oriented exploration of love.friendly.

However, aside from the straight, platonic relationships between older men and younger women (in the episode “When the Doorman Is Your Main Man” and in “So He Looked Like Dad. It was Just Dinner, Right?”), plus an episode centered on of a gay couple who long for a child (“Hers Was a World of One” with a very classic pitch, but very well played and rather moving), love according to John Carney is between of a boy and a girl, preferably white.

In fact, the only racialized woman who has the right to be the heroine of an episode, and does not play second fiddle to promote the couple in the story, is embodied by the beautiful Algerian actress Sofia Boutella, 37 years on the clock, 25 if. you will see her progress with incomparable grace. In the episode “At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity”, she played a young woman addicted to her image and to Instagram, living an impossible date with a man full of anxiety. It’s good though, even if she finds herself playing the nurse too well and seems to be there in the end to reassure her ego. date.

tell me a story (of love)

It makes you wonder if the writer’s room in the Modern Love hosts pen women to adapt these written stories to the screen. The answer is yes, but certainly not in equal proportions. Only two episodes out of eight were written by female screenwriters: first “Rallying to Keep the Game Alive”, by Sharon Horgan, featured Tina Fey as John Slattery’s wife at the end of her rope, who realizes that she has sacrificed the his best years. for her actor husband, who carefully kept her away from the fun aspects of his work. In substance, the subject is compelling, but in form, the episode appears artificial and too short for such a subject.

There is also the puzzling “That’s Why He Looks Like Dad. It’s just dinner, right?” written by Audrey Wells and directed by Emmy Rossum (yes, Fiona in No shame), which focuses on a young woman who is obsessed with one of her senior co-workers, whom she calls “the genius”. Like almost every episode of Modern Love, it is well played and written without enough judgment to keep us in front of our screen, but the subject remains conservative to say the least. Maddy (Julia Garner) desperately needs a relationship submit with a surrogate father to become “girl”.

Finally, we especially remember that this anthology pays homage to the genre therefore Hollywood romantic comedy. The first episode was clearly arousing Miss Daisy and her driver. The most successful episode, in my opinion, is “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am”, which plays with the codes of “screwball comedy” (very popular in the 1930s) and the musical comedy genre. in the 1950s, it seems Men prefer blondes (1953). It features Anne Hathaway in the role of Lexi, a woman who first appears to us very happy and bubbly, who finds a simple exit from the supermarket a handsome man who will invite her on a date. fan of film noir Gilda and his star Rita Hayworth, whom he saw as a role model, he was amazing and prepared like never before for him. date. But there’s a twist: Lexi has trouble holding down a job and has no friends because she’s bipolar. This episode thus makes a nice bridge between the past and the present.

It is a declaration of love for the great actresses of classic Hollywood – through Anne Hathaway’s glowing face dyed red, perfect as a modern Gilda – and a modern dive into the psyche of a man. . A topic that is clearly more scrutinized in 2019 than in 1950.

Then, in a style closer to Love Actually (2003, by Richard Curtis), I enjoyed the episode “When Cupid Is a Praying Journalist”, with Catherine Keener and Dev Patel, the latter has a clear path as heroes of modern romantic comedies. He was unstoppable as the CEO of a dating app, enjoying professional success but leaving a great love lost in his personal life that haunted him years later. He remembered all this with a journalist who came to interview him. The latter will also tell him the story of an unrequited love that has haunted him for almost 20 years. This stage, cabbage of preference, has the same skill as Love Actually to melt us and connect people to each other. Like the latter, “The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap”, which immerses us in a touching love story between two seniors.

So, we understand that what is modern and different from Modern Love, these are the types of love on offer, each with different flavors and uses : platonic, unfinished, at the end of his life, love at first sight, between a monogamous couple who look each other in the eye while the children leave the nest…

The frustration is all the stronger watching the show remains narrowly monogamous and almost exclusively hetero. Where is a lot of love, between two women (still very little seen on screen compared to gay love between men), between racialized people? How can a transgender person experience their romantic relationship, and an asexual person, and a person with a disability?

Not to mention the background social in the characters of Modern Love, all in very good financial situations (except for one character in episode 7, who chose to live on the streets). If the show, and we want it, is renewed for the second season, it is necessary to leave its structure – white and rich – to remain interesting and related to one of the inexhaustible subjects of the stories: love.

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