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Emily’s Love Life Is A Bore, But Her Work Conflict Soars

Dec 21, 2022

Much like Emily Cooper’s (Lily Collins) eye-popping colorful closet, “Emily in Paris” is on the divisive side. Some fell hard for Emily’s bucket hats and the bold print confection when the series debuted in 2020; others thought it was too much of everything that definitely goes against Coco Chanel’s “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” advice. Costume designers Marilyn Fitoussi (and before her, Patricia Field) have created a visual litmus test, and Darren Starr’s rom-com series confidently executes frothy extravagance. Only “Emily in Paris” could give Jean-Paul Sartre and McDonald’s equal weighting.  
Emily’s explosion of colors is not toned down in the third season, even when she struggles to make choices in her professional and personal life, and she is nothing if not consistent in her clashing clothing. Thankfully, while romance entanglements retread old ground, the series isn’t simply repeating Emily’s previous Parisian experiences.
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The action picks up with Emily in crisis after blowing up her career plan and being caught between American boss Madeline (Kate Walsh) and intimidating Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu). The latter and her entire staff walked out of the luxury French marketing firm Savoir in response to Madeline’s visit, which sets Emily’s current predicament in motion. Nearly everything we have seen suggests the contrary, but Emily insists she was once level-headed. 
Whereas the Season 2 cliffhanger suggested Emily would pick between Sylvie’s new firm and staying with her American company, this job will-they-won’t-they begins with a scenario akin to dating two guys at once. Can Emily eat macarons and a Big Mac? The latter reference will make more sense when you see who a potential new client is, and the global fast food brand becomes a central analogy in the season premiere. Using an actual product adds a level of authenticity; however, the beauty of this series is in the fantasy and suspension of disbelief, so the introduction of the Golden Arches feels forced — and Starr’s “Sex and the City” already did it better. The same applies to other real brands used later in the season, which sit alongside a host of fictitious products. 
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“Do they know that you’re playing double duty?” roomie Mindy (Ashley Park) asks as the voice of reason. Considering Sylvie’s overt disdain for Madeline, the question answers itself, and the many barbs she has thrown Emily’s way, you might also struggle to remember why Sylvie asked her to join the new firm in the first place. Well, designer Grégory Elliot Duprée (Jeremy O. Harris) made Emily’s employment one of his conditions for being on the board. There’s that suspension of disbelief we have already mentioned, which is part of the “Emily in Paris” viewing experience. Ditto, wondering exactly how she can afford to wear multiple new designer outfits per episode.
Details like this might be distracting, but the tapestry of this series is rooted in wish fulfillment and living your best life in a dream setting. Yes, Emily is still annoying and exasperating in her ability to cause a mess and still land comfortably on her stacked platform feet. However, Collins deftly walks the line between naive and enthusiastic. Later, another character astutely notes, “Emily saves the day again,” a knowing wink at how this character always finds a solution. Juggling Madeline and Sylvie is perfect fodder for the sitcom leanings of “Emily in Paris,” and any time Emily’s story moves away from work obstacles to romantic friction, it sucks some of the buoyancy out of the pacing.        
Tension with Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) and Camille (Camille Razat) is initially put on the back burner, which helps move the story forward but relegates these characters to bit parts early on. Bravo has recently played awkwardly charming in the Lesley Manville 1950s-set “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” (not a prequel to “Emily”) and proved his comedy timing chops opposite Julia Roberts and George Clooney in “Ticket to Paradise.” Last season, the love triangle morphed into a quadrangle, which remains the snooziest part of the series. As proven in these other recent projects, Bravo doesn’t lack the sauce factor, yet the sparks fizzle rather than burn with intensity. Yearning has never felt so pedestrian. Similarly, Alfie (Lucien Laviscount) and Emily are watchable, but this is not the word you want to read when describing a romantic connection. 
The work love triangle with Madeline and Sylvie is fierier, and my investment level is far higher than either of Emily’s romance options. One common complaint (rightly) leveled at the American working abroad is how little French she speaks. It has been a year since she first came to Paris, and her conversational skills are patchy but improving, and she is less oblivious to her surroundings, as depicted in the pilot. Without growth, it would be impossible to find her charming (no matter the performance), and there is still space for the titular character to misinterpret the language.   
Accurately translating a phrase while not understanding its existentialism is Emily taking baby steps. Giving her more tools to look inward probably isn’t the outcome the teacher expected. Pairing Sartre’s philosophy in the same episode with a McDonald’s campaign pitch is a “your mileage may vary” scenario, further underscoring the “Emily in Paris” dichotomy. To roll your eyes and find something charming is part of the appeal. 
Along with a somewhat clunky existentialism exposition, “Emily in Paris” is a little clumsy in getting from point A to B. The bright pattern clashing fashion sometimes reads like a way to distract the viewer from narrative contrivances. We can’t fault the dynamic between Collins and her two bosses, with both Walsh and Leroy-Beaulieu deeply understanding the assignment. Another reason Emily’s work chaos triumphs over her personal drama are to scene partners like Julien (Samuel Arnold) and Luc (Bruno Gouery). The series would benefit from revealing more about either co-worker. Some developments occur later on, but these are still surface-level revelations. 
One character deservedly standing in the spotlight is Mindy, as her star is rising with new opportunities in her dream singing vocation. A fictitious jazz club, La Trompette Bleue, offers a big step forward, but anxiety tied to her past performance humiliation colors her experience. Even if the musical interludes are not your speed, whenever Park opens her mouth, she lights up the screen — and not just because every item of clothing she wears this season is bedazzled. A cover in French of a recent favorite will give you goosebumps, but be warned, one number (not by Park) set off cringe sensors. It wouldn’t be “Emily in Paris” if I didn’t watch at least one scene through my fingers. 
Lavish fashion shows, picturesque pitching spots, and locations beyond the capital are also on the roster this season, and “Emily in Paris” is not about to do away with emphasizing the romantic and grand elements of the city. Whether you watch (or hate watch) for the quintessential American in Paris, the eye-popping costumes, or the frothy low-stakes relationship conflicts — whether work or romances — “Emily in Paris” confidently strides forward. [B-]   
“Emily in Paris” Season 3 is now available on Netflix.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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