Emily in Paris review: If you’ve been to France, steer clear

Ed Cumming
·3-min read
Lily Collins plays the ambitious twentysomething from Chicago in Emily in Paris (Netflix)
Lily Collins plays the ambitious twentysomething from Chicago in Emily in Paris (Netflix)

Here is a partial list of all the people who will not enjoy Netflix’s new series, Emily in Paris:

1. French people

2. French speakers

3. Expats who live in France

4. Anyone who has been to France

5. Anyone who has been exposed to any culture set in France

6. Anyone who has seen a picture of the Eiffel Tower

7. Anyone who’s eaten a croissant

If you fall into any of these categories, I’m afraid Emily in Paris is not for you. Still, we can be confident that despite these exemptions, millions of viewers stand ready and willing to lose themselves in this chic new comedy-drama. Netflix doesn’t commission things by mistake, except maybe Marco Polo, and the Emily in Paris creator, Darren Star, was previously responsible for Sex and the City, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210. He knows as well as anyone in the industry how to engineer something for an audience.

Lily Collins and Samuel Arnold in ‘Emily in Paris’Carole Bethuel/Netflix
Lily Collins and Samuel Arnold in ‘Emily in Paris’Carole Bethuel/Netflix

Being an industrious Americaine, Emily turns up for work on the first day several hours early. She’s wearing a top with a picture of Paris on it, which brings to mind Alan Partridge’s girlfriend, Sonia, and her Beefeater teddy bear. Emily’s French colleagues, led by her boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beualieu), are justifiably unsympathetic to this obnoxious new arrival, who shouts at them in English about social media, using a translator on her iPhone when her colleagues’ English isn’t up to it. Nobody will have lunch with her.

In the first episode, Emily Cooper (Lily Collins, daughter of Phil), an ambitious twentysomething from Chicago, is sent to work for a Parisian marketing agency that her American firm has just bought. She settles into her perfect little apartment, via some faintly agonising banter about how the French number their floors, and two meet-cutes with generic handsome white French men, the first of many. At first she’s not interested, because she’s trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with her generic handsome white Chicago boyfriend. Their relationship is as doomed as the Hindenberg.

Never fear, though. Soon Emily makes a friend in the form of a fellow-American Mindy (Ashley Park), one of the least credible nannies you’ll see. She, too, is dressed for a nightclub in LA. While Emily is ostracised at work, it’s not long before her social media posts start making her an influencer back home, a Caroline Calloway-esque manic pixie nightmare chronicling her cultural misadventures for the audience back home.

Even the trailer of Emily in Paris was enough to set Parisian tongues wagging. Some warned that visitors might be “traumatised” by this antiseptic vision of their town. Sure, it’s nonsense, but who will be sitting down to this expecting La Haine? The way to think of Emily in Paris is not to imagine that it is set in Paris at all, but a kind of Westworld-style Paris-themed amusement park in the midwest designed to teach` young women lessons in life and love. It’s not much of a stretch, considering the way many tourists approach Paris. Nobody would dream of making a series like this about Malmo or Warsaw. There is an idea of the French capital, completely distinct from the real city, reinforced by hundreds if not thousands of books and films – Amelie, Midnight in Paris, Moulin Rouge, Ratatouille, Before Sunrise and, not coincidentally, the final series of Sex and the City. Emily in Paris is just Emily in “Paris”, and we ought to leave her there to get on with it.