Entertainment Movie Reviews 10 Nov 2019 Tender tales on Mode ...

Tender tales on Modern Love

Published Nov 10, 2019, 12:55 am IST
Updated Nov 10, 2019, 12:55 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

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’s 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.