Emily in Paris (Review)

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers!

It’s about that time that a new Netflix original series takes the Internet by storm, and it is no coincidence that a story about an American girl in her 20s who becomes an influencer while already working for a luxurious Parisian marketing firm reached the top of the list. And did I mention it was created by the same creator of Sex and the City, Darren Star? Now, I had my apprehensions because Darren Star also created Younger and I did not like it. I hadn’t watched any trailers for Emily in Paris, but my friend and trusted TV source, Ana, told me to give this show a go and I did. Twice.

If you read my post this summer about TV shows, you already know what kind of show instantly draws my attention: dramatic, unrealistic, witty/shady leading women, and, of course, anything set in a different country. Quite frankly, I will really watch anything, so I am definitely not someone to look to for recommendations of a certain ‘caliber,’ but what you will always get is an in-depth, unfiltered review from me that is solely influenced by my feelings. So, let me share mine about Emily in Paris. I will repeat, this post includes spoilers.

This show is a show about an American in Paris pretty clearly for an American audience. I found myself pulling an Orange is the New Black and turning my attention to the other main and supporting characters; the whole “beautiful white woman gallivanting around Paris and being [initially] extremely ignorant about the French culture and customs, while simultaneously imposing her Type-A personality onto others and getting every man to fall in love with her” cliché didn’t do a single thing for me. Still, Emily is the main character so if you accept what she is up front, she’s an easier pill to swallow. The two dramatic pulls through the season are 1. whether or not her French team is going to fire her for her unorthodox methods and aggressive Americanness, and 2. the ‘will they or won’t they’ between her and her beautiful French neighbor who she discovers is in a relationship with someone she has already befriended.

Where the influencer portion of the story comes in is that she changes her personal Instagram handle, @emilycooper, with a following of 48 people to @emilyinparis and somehow organically grows to 25k by the end of the season which I can only guess is the span of maybe a couple of months since her wardrobe doesn’t change to winter clothes. The content, you ask? Pictures of French landmarks and architecture, kissy face selfies, cheesy hashtags with puns that are Carrie-Bradshaw-esque, and pictures of randoms on the street. So, yeah… not something to realistically garner that kind of growth in 2019. Or is it? If quarantine has shown me anything, it is that overnight success is a real thing. However, Emily’s content seems perpetually frozen in 2013/2014. If you want an in-depth review of Emily’s Instagram from current Parisian influencers though, check out this hilarious and interesting Vulture article.

Overall, the storyline is pretty average. With episodes only being 30 minutes long, I found each one holding enough drama to pull me through to the next and ultimately breezing through the whole season in one sitting (five hours). Despite a few recurring conversations in the show about morality that ultimately always concluded at “things are open to interpretation,” I think sometimes we need shows that don’t have too many characters or plots and don’t make you contemplate deep social issues. This show serves that purpose!

I pretty much liked everyone on the cast, sans Emily, and they’re actually all French except Emily and Mindy! I appreciated that the cast spoke French to each other in scenarios where they were just speaking among themselves. Although, this did become inconsistent in the second half of the season which further emphasizes this show was geared toward an American audience if it wasn’t already obvious by Emily’s character. What I absolutely LOVED though is that, at least initially, her French co-workers are not shy about calling Emily out on her arrogance in trying to impose herself and her beliefs onto people from another country in their country while also not having bothered to learn French prior to her arrival. A very American thing to do! Granted, she never planned on going to Paris, so she wouldn’t have had time to learn French, but the point still stands. There also appears to be an ongoing conversation between Emily and the people she meets in Paris about how her value of work over everything else can be as detrimental to her health in the long run as the cigarettes she obsessively points out to French people. This commentary about work-life balance is a great reminder for said American audience. Sure doesn’t take Emily long to adopt drinking wine at all hours of the day though, even breakfast!

My personal favorite characters are Sylvie, Julien, and Luc. Sylvie’s wardrobe and reads of Emily, Julien’s sass, and Luc’s general, stubborn French-ness are *chef’s kiss.* Speaking of chef’s kiss, I will go ahead and say upfront that Gabriel, the aforementioned neighbor who turns out to be a chef, is the ONLY attractive love interest in this show. It was really no wonder she fell so hard for him because her other prospects were literally disgusting in my opinion. I don’t know if this was intentional as I can think of a handful of people who went abroad and hooked up with people solely based on nationality or accent, or if this was Darren Star’s personal interest in yet again making his leading woman date older men that seem sophisticated and worldly but are really just…old. What I do know in my bones is that they could have found more attractive French men. The scene between her and Antoine at his perfume launch party where he sniffs her neck and tells her the perfume makes him think of expensive sex, and then him sending her lingerie TO THE OFFICE as a thank you present? I need Mr. Geriatric to turn his focus back to Sylvie–although it’s not every day you just get La Perla. Don’t even get me started on the nausea I felt when Emily and Mathieu started having a thing. The guy at her dinner (a.k.a. Mindy’s house party) who found the right words in English for what he wanted from Emily? Sure. The philosophy professor? I guess I could understand after wine-fueled conversation. Mathieu though? Chile…anyway.

Finally, honorable mention goes to Mindy who really provides that comic relief in the classic sassy best friend who encourages your bad habits, especially once Emily becomes single. As an expat herself, she has found her way in Paris and adopted the French culture and acts as a guide to Emily who seems to find an issue or contradiction with everything the French do. I also appreciate that Mindy is an Asian-American woman in a prominent role and doesn’t get dismissed as some side character as Emily genuinely leans on her as her first real friend in the city. I can’t say I love Mindy’s storyline of trying to become a singer despite singing on Broadway in real life, but I’m sure they will find a way to make that fit more in the second season. For all of us that instantly dislike Emily, Mindy saves the day. 🙂

As you can guess, there’s a lot of food, wine, smoking, and fashion because, as Darren Star loves to note, IT’S PARIS. We also see iconic landmarks throughout which really tugs at our American heartstrings. Then the weekend trip to Champagne to sample champagne in Camille’s family’s BEAUTIFUL estate? Just kill me. I found myself pouring a glass of wine at 2:00 in the afternoon just to feel a part of it because there wasn’t a single scene when they were out of the office that didn’t involve them enjoying a glass of wine at a beautiful location or iconic restaurant. There’s tons of bread which is my personal favorite thing about Paris. Then there is one scene that quite literally made my skin crawl which was when Emily tries to send her delicious-looking steak back for not being cooked how she requested. When Mindy tries to deter her from insulting the chef (who we find out is Gabriel) and just generally being annoying, her response is “The customer is always right.” …?! I really, truly could have died on the spot. The first thing that came out of my mouth after, “I hope they spit in her food,” was this:

As someone who works in customer service (though we all technically do under capitalism), the customer is almost NEVER right.
Fashion becomes a focal point of the show after we meet Pierre Cadault. I already briefly mentioned my love for Sylvie’s wardrobe which was comprised of dresses and skirts with high slits, stilletos, and blazers and jackets of dreams. Also, Sylvie’s strut needs its own moment of recognition. On the episode where we meet Pierre, however, we get the infamous, and my favorite, scene in which Pierre calls Emily “ringard” after her seeing her bright red heart plushie and Eiffel Tower bag charm. As someone who dotes an Eiffel Tower keychain as well, I can confirm Julien’s translation of “basic bitch” is absolutely true. But Emily does what she does best and stalks this man to give him a speech about basic bitches being the foundation of the fashion industry (true) and he comes on as a client after being charmed by her just like every other man on the show. From that point, we almost move from Antoine to Pierre–likely due to Emily’s impending relationship with Mathieu (gag)–and we transition to the drama around Fashion Week between Pierre and Grayspace. Much more my speed than Antoine’s ‘sexy or sexist’ perfume commercial.

Emily’s wardrobe……..an opportunity wasted. No, we did not get blessed with an Andy Sacks Devil Wears Prada transformation. Emily’s wardrobe was unfortunately also trapped in 2013/2014 or, as Mindy says when they first meet, “I went to junior high in Indianapolis and the girls looked like you.” (No offense to Indiana) I recently found out from TikTok that in some scene, Emily is styled with a €6000 Chanel coat. Considering everything she wore was ugly, it just goes to prove two things: 1. designer doesn’t always mean stylish, and 2. the dichotomy of “is this cute or is she just skinny” is real. I mean, she goes on five-mile runs in a lace crop top…………lace. crop. top. I….

IF I had to choose her best outfits, they were her Swan Lake dress (talk about ARRIVED!), the jeans and plaid blazer with boots that she wore to the office the day after Swan Lake, and the breathtaking white ‘Pierre Cadault’ dress she wore during the AFL auction before Grayspace destroyed it. Besides those moments….unspeakable.

The Vulture article I linked starts with the author saying early on, “The above paragraph may suggest I hated Emily in Paris,” and, well, the above paragraphs here may too suggest that seeing as how critical I am of the show and Emily as the main character. Nevertheless, the things that are ‘wrong’ with the show are actually what made me watch it twice. It provides enough fantasy and escapism for my current travel-deprived soul and enough cheesiness and drama that my pandemic brain can take a break from contemplating real life, or French endings. The additional commentary about social media being an integral part of marketing now was an interesting bonus as I couldn’t quite figure out if they were making fun of it, embracing it, or just showing its complexity in a world that desires the “new,” but doesn’t actually want change.
Every time I have visited Paris, I have pretty much felt ‘full’ of it by the end of the trip as the language barrier, disdain for Americans, and general rudeness is off-putting and doesn’t encourage me to get connected with the city. Not to mention, I still don’t understand the hype around French cuisine. Still, I found myself longing for its beauty and contemplating a return trip while watching this show. I wanted to live through Emily’s exciting new life, drama and all. I guess it’s the same as how people feel about New York City–there’s just something about it.

Maybe it’s the fantasy. Maybe I see part of myself in Emily. Maybe it’s the jealousy of Emily living my dream of being an influencer abroad. Either way, I’m already settling into depression that we won’t be getting a new season until this time next year. If you read this as someone who has not yet watched the show but are not bothered by spoilers, I did leave a lot of the show out of my review. I think if you want to watch something short, mindless, and see French people read Emily for filth, you should go ahead and press play. I assume you wouldn’t be reading this review otherwise if you weren’t interested! 😉

Anybody else watch Emily in Paris? What’d you think? Let me know in the comments!
xx, AE

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