Thoughts on Love (Netflix’s Love, That Is)

No, this is not a post about my undying love for Netflix. Frankly I won’t be entirely happy with Nettie until he puts a ring on it.

When I first heard about Love, a series that just came to Netflix last week produced by notorious funny men Judd Apatow and Paul Rust, I sort of rolled my eyes a bit. Yet another series about unhappy 30-somethings navigating their way through the crazy world of modern relationships. However, I am a huge Apatow fan. I love his “slice of life” approach to his movies: how he takes emotionally trying situations and finds crazy amounts of humor in them. Superbad, The Five-Year Engagement, and This is 40 are absolutely brilliant and you can’t convince me otherwise. So while the premise of Love is overdone, my expectations of Apatow are high.

These feelings and the fact that the characters are pitched as “socially awkward” are what made me give the series a shot. I am fascinated by how awkward people are portrayed in movies and on TV. There are very few writers out there who have nailed the awkward experience.

The writers of Love did not.

The show succeeds in characterization but not in the way it meant to.

The male lead, Gus, is the only person who could be called socially awkward. But it’s an unrealistic awkward. He is barely functional in a conversation (and this is coming from me, guys), constantly stammering his way through nonsensical sentences, saying really inappropriate and often rude things. What’s more, the people around him don’t react to his awkwardness. They act like he’s perfectly normal. Even charismatic. But he’s so uptight, if I met him, I’d be a little afraid he’d hurt me if I disagreed with him or said the wrong thing.

Mickey, the female lead, is not awkward in any way. She’s the quintessential “cool girl.” She smokes, drinks, swears, and seems like she doesn’t give a fuck. You can imagine why I immediately groaned when I realized these were the two people who were going to end up together (I talk about this more in my post about romantic comedies in general). However, Mickey is a brilliantly formed character. She has an impulsive and an addictive personality that was portrayed flawlessly through the writing and the acting; she is a complicated mess of insecurities blanketed in false self-confidence, desperate to not only be loved but to feel worthy of it; she is an interesting and fresh take on the manic pixie dream girl. I found myself relating to her in so many ways despite her lack of awkwardness.

And here’s a special shout-out to Bertie, Mickey’s Australian roommate: a generally happy, optimistic person who just wants to make some friends in a new country, and she is perhaps the only person on the show whoever looks at Gus and Mickey and wonders what the hell they’re doing.

The writers did so well with characters. And kudos to them because that shit is tough, man. But everything else about the show was so disappointing to me. With the exception of how well they depicted addiction without making it the main plot point. I found myself hate watching it. Like I wanted to get through it all just so I could continue mentally listing all of the things I hated about it. I had such a negative emotional reaction to the show that I felt a need to write about it on here.

I can get used to the nerdy guy getting the hot girl. I do sometimes wish we could see the reverse, and not in such a way that the girl gets a makeover and the guy suddenly realizes she was actually a hot girl with glasses all along, but Hollywood is Hollywood. What was utterly unbelievable about the show was that Gus got hot girl after hot girl. They were always going after him, checking him out from across the room, approaching him with flirtatious conversation, not at all put off by his inability to form complete sentences. I suppose it can be justified by the fact that women in their 30s often realize they’re done with the games and just want a “nice guy.” Gus being a “nice guy” was beaten to death. But Gus is not a nice guy. Gus is an asshole.

At first, Gus’s crush on Mickey is cute, typical rom-com behavior. He is Woody Allen, she is Diane Keaton. The meet-cute occurs. She pretends she’s uninterested but gets jealous of the other women who are, inexplicably, always going after him. He professes his feelings and they have an adorable first kiss.

And then Gus starts treating her like crap. And the worse he treats her, the more obsessed she gets, the more obsessed she gets, the worse he treats her. Gus may look like a nice guy but he had few redeeming qualities. Mickey isn’t perfect either, but everything she said and did and how people reacted to her was in line with her established character. The two of them have chemistry, but only the type of chemistry that any two people so diametrically opposed would.

The show is categorized as a rom-com, but it is perhaps the saddest show I’ve ever seen. I won’t give the ending of season 1 away but I will say it’s infuriating. The running time was also outside of the form, each episode being between 30 and 40 minutes. Not that I don’t think that’s okay, but I do think it provided the writers with too much opportunity to drag out the drama instead of tightening moments that could have been comedic. As it was, they barely had enough of a story to cover 10 episodes. I can think of two (the pilot being one of them) that they could’ve done without.

It’s called Love but I can’t imagine that being the way it turns out for these two. There is nothing there but a toxic relationship bound to hurt everyone involved. The show seems to be more about the idea of love and the lengths to which people go to pretend they’ve found it. This is not a bad idea and falls in line with typical Apatow. The problem is that, outside of the occasional potty joke, the humor is missing. Maybe my major issue is that I felt cheated by the way it was marketed. That I was hoping for something most likely imperfect but still light-hearted and entertaining.

If anyone else out there has thoughts on the show, I would love (pun only mildly intended) to hear from you and discuss it. It would be nice to get a different point of view. I promise this will not become a review blog. Odd as it is, I just needed to get a lot of this off of my chest. I think the fact that I am having such a strong emotional reaction to the characters is only a further testament to how well they succeeded there. I am genuinely concerned Mickey’s well-being and hope she pushes Gus off a bridge in season 2.

I also find it completely fascinating that, despite love being such a universal experience, it is so difficult for writers to capture it. It’s kind of cool but also kind of scary.

If you want to see a hilarious show about modern relationships, I highly recommend Man Seeking Woman on FXX. It’s freaking spot on.

My verdict: Love ain’t so Apatow-sing (pun very intended).

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