Entertainment Hollywood 10 Nov 2019 Tender tales on Mode ...

Tender tales on Modern Love

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SUBHASH K JHA
Published Nov 10, 2019, 2:13 am IST
Updated Nov 10, 2019, 2:13 am IST
This series gently depicts many versions of love and challenges people face in the current scenario.
A scene from Modern Love.
 A scene from Modern Love.
Rating:

Modern  Love (8 episodes, Amazon Prime)
Starring Cristin Milioti, Laurentiu Possa, Anna Hathaway,Dev Patel , Kathreen Keener,  Tina Fey, John Slatterly, Sofia Boutella, John Gallagher  Jr,  Julia Garner, Andy Garcia,Andrew Scott, Brandon Kyle Goodman,  Olivia Kate Goodman,  Jane Alexander, James Saito
Written and  directed  by  John Carney

Easily the  best  series I’ve seen on the OTT platform, Modern Love is an ambrosial anthology of eight episodes  portraying love in all its splendour, sometimes slender, sometimes hard, but always tender and  revealing, each episode has  the stand-alone emotional strength of being a full-length feature film.

 

And the perk,  if one may call it that, is the city of New York looming  unobtrusively over the stories like a silent narrator, hovering gently over the fate  of anxious characters who are so relatable (thanks to the exquisite performances) they rejuvenate the entire romantic genre of filmmaking.

How do I pick my favourite  from this  beautiful  bouquet of romance? Well, if you insist  it would have to be the  first story  ‘When The  Doorman  Is Your  Main Man’  where a young single privileged  girl (Cristin Milioti) in a posh highrise of NY is parentally protected by the  building’s doorman (brilliantly  ‘played’ by  Laurentiu Possa). This is the most epic story in the omnibus. It says so much about the intrinsically indefinable nature  of human bonding, while keeping the core relationship unconditionally free  of innuendos. This is the story that moved me to tears.

The least moving  of the stories, though no  less articulate ,  is   ‘So  He Looked Like Dad, It Was  Just Dinner, Right?’  where Shia Wigham and Julia  Garner do a  Lolita-redux with less than satisfying results. Ms Garner’s own hormonal and emotional confusions do  not help the plot to get to remain on its feet. Everything, from the exchanges between father-figure and   Lolita-remixed to the final outcome  of the sordid  liaison, rings a little untrue.

But then, maybe that’s in comparison with the supremely poised  calibre of  the  series. No actor ‘plays’ a character. The word is an insult to  what  the actors  do  here. The stunning Anne Hatthway is  exceptional as a bi-polar in ‘Take Me As  I  Am, Whoever I am.’ This is a one-woman show  and Hathaway gives a career-defining performing showing the character’ periodic descent into hell with heartstopping tangibility. Hathaway is Oscar-worthy.

In ‘At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity,’ two young people who have just met end up spending the night together at the hospital after the guy  is  injured in a freak accident. The strength  of this episode is not its performances (though Sofia Boutella, John Gallagher  Jr are in full control of their characters) but in the  conversation which shows how social media affects modern romantic relationships. This story opts for a dispassionate tone to reflect on the artificiality of  ‘Instagram’ portraits  of real relationships.

In  ‘Hers Was a World of One’ a gay couple (Andrew Scott, Brandon Kyle Goodman)  deal with the wild nomadic mother of their  child Olivia Kate Goodman). This episode is unconditionally charming. Stand-out performances  by  Scott and  Goodman and a bedrock of unquestionable humanism that runs through all the stories, defines the excellence of the presentation.

In comparison I  found  the episode ‘Rallying to Keep the Game Alive’ dry  and  cold, perhaps   consciously so,  as a wife trapped (Tina Fey) trapped in  a stagnant marriage to a wry entertainment executive (John Slatterly) de-freezes  her  cold marriage with some serious therapy (therapist  Sarita Chowdhary  is one of  the two  Indian actors in  the series) and  casual soul-searching. This story of a failing marriage offers no  fresh insights as the narrative   lumbered across repeated games  of tennis. Some of the  scenes in New York restaurants featuring intrusive characters seemed  pointless.

Dev Patel as an entrepreneur who misses the love bus in ‘When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist’ is seen trying too hard to look love-stricken. The story has banal representations of  scenes from a sterile marriage that look like out-takes  from Steep-De Niro’s Falling In Love.What works  here is that  most of the story is shot on NY’s  Central Park which serves as a stabilising if not a motivating propulsive character.

Finally the story ‘The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap’ about two autumnal strangers played wonderfully by Jane Alexander and James Saito , who rediscover  love at a late age. The story fills  the frames with sunshine and reminds us of how easy it is to find love if you look with an open heart.

Sure, the stories have  their  flaws. Isn’t that how life is? There  is nothing like the perfect relationship in today’s times. Modern Love serves up lessons in finding  love during times of compromise and cynicism. Not to be  missed. I can’t  wait for Season  2.

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