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Emily in Paris is pure escapism

There is a lot to like about Netflix series Emily in Paris.First up, it is as visually delectable as the window of any French patisserie, every frame splashed with warm, bright colours, attractive actors and beautiful clothes.Second, it’s a seductive postcard tour of Paris where characters frequently walk the banks of the Seine with iconic…

There is a lot to like about Netflix series Emily in Paris.

First up, it is as visually delectable as the window of any French patisserie, every frame splashed with warm, bright colours, attractive actors and beautiful clothes.

Second, it’s a seductive postcard tour of Paris where characters frequently walk the banks of the Seine with iconic monuments in the background or eat pastries in the Tuileries, nestled among the greenery.

In a year where we’ve all been grounded, the memory of your last Parisian jaunt has more than a wistful pang.

Third, it’s frothy and light, its 30-minute episodes flying by without demanding any investment from the viewer.

But if you expect any more from Emily in Paris, don’t. Because it’s as ephemeral as fairy floss – sweet for about 12 seconds, and then it’s as if it was never there.

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The latest offering from Darren Star (Sex and the City), Emily in Paris follows mid-level marketing executive Emily (Lily Collins) from Chicago to Paris where her company has sent her to give their French subsidiary an “American perspective”.

You can imagine how well that little bit of cultural imperialism goes down with her new colleagues, especially seeing how Emily doesn’t speak a word of French beyond bonjour, oui and beret.

Emily’s perky ideas about Instagram, social engagement and accessibility also puts her at odds with her new boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), who’s more interested in keeping her luxury clients as exclusive.

Unsurprisingly, culture clashes emerge. But rather than trying to learn the culture she’s been dropped in, Emily tries to bend it to her will – but somehow this is framed as a vivacious pluckiness rather than arrogance, in the way that only an American TV show would do.

It wouldn’t surprise you to know that Emily manages to thaw those icy European hearts and finds success with a slew of social media ideas that honestly don’t sound like they would work.

Meanwhile, she finds a friend in another expat, Mindy (Ashley Park), a Shanghainese heiress-cum-nanny whose accent is perfectly American and whose Chinese doesn’t resemble Chinese.

There is also a string of handsome French men, including downstairs neighbour Gabriel (Lucas Bravo – a French Armie Hammer if you’ve ever seen one), to prove Emily is not the puritanical prude her colleagues think she is.

Collins has a pixie-ish charm which makes her endearing, despite the fact Emily is a frustratingly facile character written with no backstory or emotional grounding.

It’s actually much easier to root for Sylvie and her disdain for this American upstart even if the show is squarely behind Emily.

Much like Star’s previous work, notably Sex and the City and Younger, Emily in Paris is a wish fulfilment fantasy in which its main character lives and dresses well beyond her apparent means.

You’re not supposed to question how Emily owns all those eye-popping outfits (Patricia Field is the costume designer) or how she’s managing to totter around exclusively in stilettos on those cobbled Parisian streets without breaking an ankle.

You accept a certain level of suspend your disbelief on a Darren Star series.

But there is one moment later on in the season when its lack of realism is particularly grating, when Emily gives an earnest speech to a couture legend about how average girls like her bought gauche designer bag charms because it was all they could afford.

It would’ve been a more effective entreaty for fashion accessibility if she wasn’t dressed to the nines at that exact moment, and in every moment before and after it.

The “Paris” in the title is about as representative of Paris as the “City” in Sex and the City was of New York. It’s a slice of Paris shot to appeal to an audience that’s never wandered further than the Sacre Coeur, showcasing the lifestyles of characters that include the daughter of China’s zipper king and the heiress to a champagne house.

If you are looking for a Netflix series that highlights the rich diversity of Paris, The Eddy does a much more adept job.

But for its many, many flaws, Emily in Paris will scratch an escapist itch, because that’s what it is, pure escapism.

There is something very enticing about its unapologetic sunny disposition, living in this vibrant and easy world where every challenge or obstacle magically works itself out.

Emily in Paris premieres on Netflix on Friday, October 2 at 5pm AEST

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