On paper, or as the French say – en théorie – Emily in Paris ticks all the boxes for romcom-lovers. Sex and the City creator Darren Star is at the helm of this Netflix series, girl-next-door type Lily Collins stars as the titular Emily and it’s set in one of the most romantic cities in the world.
However, the comedy-drama gets off to a rough start. We first meet successful marketing executive Emily as she’s finishing her 5-mile run along Chicago’s skyscraper-lined river in a puffy-coat and a full face of make-up, without having seemingly broken a sweat. If that’s not already a reason to find the character irritating, she becomes even more unlikeable the minute she lands in Paris – where she’s sent to revamp the social media strategy of Savoir, the French luxury marketing firm recently acquired by her company.
While enchanted by the alluring Parisian streets, Emily receives a cold, unfriendly welcome from the staff at Savoir, who immediately shun the chirpy American for trying to shake up the company and her inability to speak french. She’s portrayed as the stereotypical social-media obsessed US millennial – she litters her sentences with the odd french word, delivered in an arrogantly abrupt American accent whilst constantly posting photos of the city to Instagram, with captions like: “#roomwithaview” (a selfie in her new flat) and “Paris is weeping” (when it’s raining).
It’s therefore no surprise when she clashes with her new boss Sylvie, played by the effortlessly glamorous Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu as a walking stereotype of the genre. Sylvie is a passive-aggressive Miranda Priestly-type with a chain-smoking habit who, when not confidently calling the shots at work, is the mistress of her attractive client, Antoine. Sylvie takes an immediate dislike to “the American girl” – which I couldn’t blame her for at first – seeing Emily as an interfering nuisance who knows nothing of French culture and a potential romantic threat, after Antoine begins taking an interest in her that appears to be more than professional.
As the series unfolds however, you find yourself rooting for Emily a bit more – she tones down the ‘I’m an American in Paris!’ schtick, wins over most of her initially-resistant new colleagues whilst sticking to her guns on their social media output and finds herself in a few hilariously humbling scenarios; she’s forced to wash her hair in a bidet after the shower in her new flat breaks and accidentally orders a croissant with a side of condom (avec le préservatif).
She’s also an excellent character to live vicariously through in the time of COVID, strutting through the stunning streets of Paris in fabulous outfits, surrounded by fetching French men who she begins to entertain when her sports-obsessed boyfriend dumps her after just a few weeks of a long-distance relationship. Emily soon finds herself in a number of tricky romantic situations, from stumbling into a love triangle with her charismatic chef neighbour and his girlfriend, to receiving expensive lingerie from Savoir’s flirtatious client Antoine.
While you’ll keep watching to see how the romantic drama unravels and for more scenic shots of vibrant Paris, another highlight of the series has to be seasoned broadway actress Ashley Park, who plays Mindy – a new American friend of Emily’s. The Tony-nominated actress, who originated the role of Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls the musical, is hilarious as Mindy, who’s been living in Paris to avoid inheriting her father’s lucrative zipper business in China and acts as a cultural translator for Emily whilst dishing out advice like, “You haven’t done Paris right until you’ve had one wildly inappropriate affair”.
This fish out of water story takes a few episodes to get going, but it’s worth the watch if you’re a romcom-enthusiast longing for a glimpse of pre-lockdown travel. Emily in Paris transports you to the fabulous French capital and teases its viewers with enough plot twists to keep you clicking Netflix’s ‘next episode’ button.
Emily in Paris arrives on Netflix on Friday 2nd October. Check out our lists of the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix. If you’re looking for something to watch, check out our TV Guide.