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'Emily in Paris' Review: Amusement superficiel

'Emily in Paris' is no Sex And the City, even if they share a creator. But then again, there's no way it could be in 2020.

Lily Collins as Emily Cooper in 'Emily in Paris' on Netflix.
(Image: © Netflix)

Our Verdict

A mostly superficial show that beautifully showcases Paris while avoiding anything as troublesome as depth of character.

For

  • 🇫🇷 Paris reminds us it's the perfect place to shoot a show.
  • 🇫🇷 The European characters are gruff and charming all at once.
  • 🇫🇷 The episodes are blissfully short.

Against

  • 🇺🇸 The Instagram generation is here to save us!
  • 🇺🇸 Can't decide if I'm rooting for Emily to get fired.

This post contains spoilers for Netflix's Emily in Paris. 

Open up Netflix and catch a glimpse of the in-no-way-manipulated-why-would-you-even-think-such-a-thing Top 10 list and you'll find a wide-eyed Emily in Paris, a new Netflix original series from Darren Star, who you'll remember from Sex And The City fame from the late 1990s.

A lot has changed in 20 years, though. First, having a show with "Sex" in the title won't land the way it did back then. And viewers aren't as prudish as we once were. Then there's the fact that maybe 2020 — and especially this 2020 in this version of the multiverse — maybe doesn't need another white character finding their way in a big, diverse city while simultaneously all but failing to acknowledge that diversity in any meaningful way.

But here we are, with Emily in Paris on the Netflix Top 10.

That's not to say there aren't some redeeming qualities in what otherwise is a pretty vapid 10-episode series that thankfully breaks 30 minutes only once. It's just that none of them has anything to do with the title character.

First, the good: Emily in Paris is set, appropriately enough, in Paris. (With a few days' worth of shooting in Chicago for plot reasons.) If you're going to shoot a mostly superficial series, there are worse places to do it. And the folks behind the camera did a masterful job here. All the important landmarks are there, used often, and used well. It's gratuitous and perhaps more than a little cliche — but that also perfectly sets the tone for the series.

The gist is that Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) is a young, low-level marketing rep who suddenly gets to move to Paris after her firm acquires a French company and her middle-age boss (Kate Walsh) turns out to be pregnant. Emily doesn't know the language. It's possible she's never even been out of the country before. Her boyfriend Doug (Roe Hartrampf) is kind of lukewarm on the idea. Whatever. Because exactly what you think is going to happen with him is, in fact, going to happen.

Emily shows up in Paris and the worker bees at Savoir have no idea she was coming. Suspend disbelief there for a minute. Her new boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu)  couldn't care less about some Size 0 American girl showing up with all sort of newfangled social media ideas, except that Emily keeps making things work and making things happen, all while documenting her new life in France on a generic-looking Instagram with the "Emily in Paris" username. (And, yes, Netflix actually has that Insta account.)

It wouldn't be Paris without a bit of romance, and it wouldn't be France without a bit of complicated romance. The long-distance thing with Doug is going nowhere fast. (Her corded vibrator shorting out the ancient electrical in her building is, I imagine, all-too-real, though.) The married older men have no problem flirting, and then escalating that flirtation beyond what Americans would consider acceptable decades ago, never mind in the me-too era. Being gifted La Perla lingerie by a married client? Not great. Emily opening the box at her desk where her boss can see that someone just bought her a very expensive bra? Also not the best of ideas.

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Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu as Sylvie in Emily in Paris on Netflix.

Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu as Sylvie in Emily in Paris on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)
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Bruno Gouery as Julien, right, and Samuel Arnold as Luke, center, in Emily in Paris on Netflix.

Bruno Gouery as Julien, right, and Samuel Arnold as Luke, center, in Emily in Paris on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)
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William Abadie as Antoine Lambert in Emily in Paris on Netflix.

William Abadie as Antoine Lambert in Emily in Paris on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)
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Camille Razat as Camille in Emily in Paris on Netflix.

Camille Razat as Camille in Emily in Paris on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)
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Lucas Bravo isn't about to get himself into any trouble as Gabriel in Emily in Paris on Netflix.

Lucas Bravo isn't about to get himself into any trouble as Gabriel in Emily in Paris on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)
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Ashley Park, right, as Mindy with Lily Collins as Emily in Emily in Paris on Netflix.

Ashley Park, right, as Mindy with Lily Collins as Emily in Emily in Paris on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

Then there's Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) — Emily's downstairs neighbor whose door she keeps attempting to get through (seriously, it doesn't take that long to remember that the first floor actually starts on the second floor), and who has that sort of laid back, European casualness about him that those of us with funny American accents like to think we can pull off when we're abroad. (Pro tip: We can't. Just go with it.) He's also a chef at a restaurant near their building, which builds into a decent little arc. There's obvious (and instant) chemistry here, and it's come at the perfect time. Emily could use a friend.

She finds a couple others in Mindy Chen (Ashley Park), who's working in Paris as a nanny while hiding from her rich and controlling family in China. And then there's Camille (Camille Razat), who's immediately a little too nice to Emily and is a breath of fresh air considering all the other French people have been a little too stereotypically French. Something just has to be wrong with Camille — and it turns out that something is named Gabriel.

Conflict is what makes stories worth telling, of course. And for the most part Emily in Paris has a pretty forgettable story. She causes one disaster after another either by virtue of her age or Americanism (or both), then manages to bail herself out either by virtue of her age or Americanism (or both), all while employing the magical new techniques of "social media" that she too often describes as if she's peddling magic beans to this land of simpletons. 

That Emily's own growing social media standing would lead to larger wins on a major professional level is mostly fantastical. Though all-too-real is her experience at an "influencer event." It's painful and perfect.

Don't head into Emily In Paris hoping for anything more than what you see on the poster. Slightly inappropriate fashion on someone who's not old enough to know better yet, and slightly inappropriate behavior from everyone from all directions. It's a decidedly PG-13 affair, for the most part. It's a reminder that perhaps Insta-life really isn't the direction we want Planet Earth to go.

Why watch, then? Because it's four-and-a-half hours of television that will remind you there is a world outside your home. That one day we might once again be able to travel and experience other countries and bungle our way through first contact with other cultures. Because it's Paris, damn it. Because it's food and wine and art and fashion and, yes, for some perhaps a little romance.

It's fun and fleeting, at times memorable, and at times absolutely forgettable. Which exactly what a stint in Paris in your 20s should be.