When it started, Emily in Paris was full of clichés about Parisians/French people vs. Americans and back, which was meant to establish a few coordinates for the show: French people work so as to be able to enjoy more of life (yes, we’ve all heard that before, and French people do, indeed, seem to put in some of the lowest number of worked hours in Europe in a given year) whereas Americans put work first and foremost. French people take lovers on the side, whereas Americans tend to go about these things one partner at a time. French people make some of the best pastries you’ll ever taste. And so on.
At first I thought the show will actually go on in this manner, one cliché after another, but even before characters began to flesh out into realistic, complex persons, I was struck by the first-rate acting in this show. They’re all having a lot of fun. It’s as if they wink at you while they’re acting. If the show weren’t so good, so satisfying, so wholesome in parts despite the raciness, I’d say it’s a bit camp.
It can’t be a version of Desperate Housewives about Parisians, though, because it’s written and directed by Darren Star, who is also the creator of Beverly Hills, 90210. But then he also created the TV series Sex and the City—see what I mean about camp?
But this series can’t be camp, not with a protagonist like Emily Cooper, the smart, beautiful, and yes, sexy, girl next door. You can’t help but love Emily (Lily Collins, who, I just learned, happens to be Phil Collins’s daughter!) for her good intentions and her adventures and mishaps in Paris.
As for the rest of the cast, every single actor in the show is just perfect 🙂 Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu (as Sylvie Grateau) steals all the scenes she’s in. She has the charm of a fine aging actress, much like Julia Roberts (whom I’ve recently seen in Wonder (2017), a memorable movie with an 8.0 rating out of 154K votes on IMDb), if not quite as strong on wattage (Leroy-Beaulieu is, after all, French).
Emily’s love interest Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) is also a delight to watch, and not only because of his model looks. He is so darn natural and down-to-earth in his acting that he almost crosses the fourth wall. He simply absorbs the viewer’s gaze, and then communicates his message with his whole presence on screen, free from mannerisms (unlike Sylvie, who does sport some heavy mannerisms—but again, she does that in a rather self-aware manner as an actor, something that works really well).
Camille Razat (as Camille) is quite stunning in the show too. It’s almost as if she were an actress playing a model, because her looks come across first and foremost, and then her acting. But that happens because she’s very good at her acting, of course. And her face is very interesting to watch. Well, I just learned that she is, in fact, a model—and she’s also been acting in a good number of movies and TV shows since 2015.
Ashley Park (as Mindy Chen, Emily’s best friend in Paris), while in a rather understated role, is actually a powerhouse (with acting chops honed through thousands of Broadway shows)—and she can really sing! She’s such a pleasure to watch. It’s as if she comes to each scene with a large sampler of things she can do as an actress, and then in a matter of tens of seconds she takes you through them: Mindy as a good listener, with a whole range of body vocabulary to prove it, and then Mindy as the BFF who can also extend Emily’s perspective through her own as a seasoned expat and a Chinese woman that comes from money. She’s also got a great sense of humor, one that doesn’t make light of things as much as make fun of them, chalking them up to experiences that quickly fly into lessons before they can weigh down the present.
In fact, if there’s one shortcoming I see in this show is that while other people do suffer from the consequences of their decisions for extended periods of time, Emily herself seems to glide through the waters of Paris like a swan. It’s all graceful and nice but it’s not dramatic enough, and it does remove Emily as a character from real like enough for the viewer to get a sense of disconnect in that regard, especially as in the first episodes she comes across as a woman who cares for her principles and who has led such a sheltered life that she may struggle to find her feet in Paris. Well, let me just say that ten episodes into the show, she’s changed a whole lot, even if, okay, not that I think about it more, the pointers were there in the beginning that she’s a young girl eager to embrace the world and Paris, and so a woman who may allow Paris to change her in many ways.
That said, I’m off to continue to watch episode ten.
I hope you’ll give this show a chance too!
To a happier, healthier life,