Last weekend, I got ready to follow my favorite hobby and tradition in the colder months — binge-watch Sundays (I’m going, to be honest, it’s not just a tradition in colder months). And as I was flicking through the typical “comfort binges” — also known as shows you’ve seen many times but still go back to because they’re just comfortable — I stumbled upon Amazon Prime’s new show Modern Love.
Based on the popular New York Times column of the same title, the show explores true stories (dramatized for their adaptation) of New Yorkers finding love in all kinds of places. With a cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Patel, Andrew Scott, and Cristin Milotti, describing it as “star-studded” is appropriate. When it comes to representing New York in 2019 though, it seems like there are many stories and varieties missing. Out of eight episodes, there is only one queer love-story and in the whole series, there are exactly two women of color — none of them in major roles. And although Amazon has already announced that there will be a season two, which will hopefully include more diverse stories, there isn’t a lot of “modern” in Modern Love when it comes to realistic representations of one of the biggest metropolises in the world today.
Coming back to the actual series, however, Modern Love has some wonderful glimpses into love and all the shapes and sizes in which it comes. Split into eight episodes, the show explores human relationships of all kinds, like in the first episode “When the Doorman is your Main Man”, which doesn’t focus on Maggie’s (played by Cristin Milotti) love life or its further developments, but on her friendship with her doorman Guzmin (played by Laurentiu Possa). Exploring a father-daughter-like dynamic, the episode manages to create a feeling of comfort, safety, and love in one of its purest forms.
One of the episodes that stood out the most for me was “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am” which is centered around a woman named Lexi (played by Anne Hathaway) who at the beginning of her story seems — in her own words — like she’s a character in LaLaLand. There are sparkly outfits, musical numbers in supermarkets, a meet-cute and a woman with perfect hair, a perfect smile, and a perfect New York apartment. Approximately 10 minutes into this colorful love-fest however, we see Lexi quite literally break down. In a dynamic dollie shot, the sparkly LaLaLand character collapses into bed, rolls up in her blanket and the scenes darken instantly. “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am” portrays bipolar disorder in a way I haven’t seen in popular culture before. The audience has witnessed one of Lexi’s manic episodes in the opening of her story without realizing it, which makes it tremendously more tragic than the disorder itself. Upon first watching the beginning of the episode, I remember thinking “This is a bit much, but okay, it’s Anne Hathaway and she’s singing in a sequin top, I’ll roll with it”, but it made the reveal of Lexi’s condition even more heartbreaking. And while there is a love-story with Jeff (played by Gary Carr), the man she meets in the supermarket, the true focus of the episode is Lexi’s relationship with herself and her illness. The typical signs of overcompensating, helplessness and listlessness as well as feeble attempts of recovery portray bipolar disorder as something very real and very raw. There is no solution, no happy end, and still, this episode left me stunned with awe for the actor’s performances, for the way the story was told and for the way that it still was what the series advertised, a story of modern love.
I am going to mention that if you don’t feel the need to complete all the episodes in the series, that you skip episode six which is titled “So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?” because yes, it is just as weird as the title suggests and no, I still don’t know what I watched when I watched it. To make up for it, you can just re-watch “Hers Was a World of One”, the only queer love-story and a beautiful performance by Andrew Scott and Brandon Kyle Goodman — and that Ed Sheeran cameo you will question until the end of time.
All of the episodes are roughly 30 minutes long, meaning they are perfect for a short break and a cup of hot beverage of your choosing. Let Modern Love lull you in with its sweet and bittersweet moments, it is worth it. And hopefully, with season two, we will be able to see some other stories, with other types of protagonists.