With lockdown happening again in France, it’s back to Netflix and pajamas for a lot of us. To help you decide what to watch, I’ve reviewed Emily in Paris. I’ll be quick. Here it is.
Emily in Paris is a dumb show.
It’s visually pleasing, but the characters are shallow or sexist or mean or cliché, from the lusty Frenchmen to the fat happy Southerner. The plot is a cheap copy of Legally Blonde. The worst part, the part that has the French up in arms, is that apparently not a lot of research about France went into this. In fact, I think one of the writers just asked their Aunt Brenda what her 1979 semester abroad was like, and that was the extent of it. Because 1979 was the approximate heyday for these tired French tropes.
That’s it. That’s my review.
But I’m not here for negativity, so let’s get to what really inspired me about this show.
The real star of the show
The shining light of Emily in Paris is the protagonist’s boss, Sylvie, played by the magnificent Phillippine Leroy-Beaulieu. Granted, Sylvie’s character is a poorly-written meanie, but I also feel like a poorly-written meanie sometimes, so it clicked with me. (By that I mean that the things I plan to say and do generally turn out fine, but I have enough gaffes and stumbles that sometimes it seems like somebody careless has written my dialogue and thrown in some cooking accidents and wardrobe malfunctions for cheap humor.) Sylvie gives hope to poorly written meanies d’un certain âge everywhere.
Why? Because even though PLB has long swingy hair and her figure shows that she has never eaten a snack in her life, she’s real. Her jawline is soft. She has tiny crows feet. Her neck is not a Grecian column. She is short-tempered. And yet, she’s glorious.
We women-of-a-certain-age could use some real-world role models. We’ve been working or driving minivans or schlepping kids around for decades, and now the pressure is off. Those kids are mostly taken care of, work has worked itself out, and we have time for reading or weekends to ourselves or hobbies. Often, though, the Emilys of this world are held up as the standard for womanhood, and that makes us feel either wistful or bitter.
Help is here, ladies, in the regal form of Phillippine Leroy-Beaulieu, late fifties and divine.
Ageing à la française
I was surprised when I moved to France, to see women of all ages dressing beautifully and looking terrific. Senior citizens in strappy sundresses sipping drinks in a cafe. Eighty-year-olds buying groceries in heels and lipstick. Fifty-ish power women with silk blouses, fabulous scarves and shoulder-length hair. I wanted to join in. I wanted to find my version of French fabulous.
Let’s learn from Sylvie.
All about Sylvie
First, the face. She doesn’t wear much makeup, just a nice smokey eye and pale lipstick, with great skin. Note to self–improve the skincare routine, ease off the blush and red lips.
Then, the hair. It’s a nice natural dark-blond, light-brown. If gray shows through, it’s going to add depth, but it’s not going to cause a scandal. Again – that natural look.
The body. PLB has a killer figure, but that ship has sailed for me. The thing I love, that we can all shoot for, is her energy. She strides when she walks. She has great posture. She always seems to know what to do with her arms, which I have never mastered. (Maybe I’ll re-watch her scenes and take notes on her arm movements.) That kind of regal bearing could overcome a lot of shortcomings.
The clothes. Sylvie dresses in an understated, elegant, chic manner, in contrast to Emily’s sexy-toddler style. Her tailoring is impeccable, which is something we can all learn about. She shows some skin, a plunging neckline or slit skirt, just enough to make you think that the rest is probably terrific. The fabrics in her daily wardrobe are soft and forgiving, not clingy or filmy. (And since I never go anywhere fancy, I’ll never need the supportive undergarments that she must be sporting under that one-arm green evening gown in episode 7.) Colors? She wears a lot of blacks and olive tones, so the occasional pink or green makes a real statement. Classic, but never boring.
The jewelry. Some, not too much, and it’s all bold. Either statement earrings and a wrist full of bracelets, or a long necklace. She is not a Christmas tree.
That’s it for the look. But what about that attitude?
Attitude is everything
Never apologize, never explain. When Sylvie’s man pissed her off, she refused to speak to him until he came around on his own. When Emily asked her (silly Emily!) to go out for girls day, she just said Non. Past 50, I don’t think you have to do anything you don’t want to do.
Take no prisoners. When Sylvie needed to assert herself, she let loose with both barrels. She could get places that no one else could, because she didn’t hold back. She said what she wanted to say with conviction, and didn’t stop until she got what she wanted. I want that kind of confidence, but I can’t even push a sleeping cat off my lap when I need to go pee. Will work on that.
She knows her job. Whatever your job is, nobody does it like you. Take pride in it, let your co-workers do their bit, and fire somebody if they need it.
All grown up
What do we want, my middle-aged sisters? We want to be the best we can be now, not the best we’ve ever been. My 22-year-old self had a smaller waist and thicker hair, but she also could not produce a sit-down dinner for 10, or file her own taxes, or negotiate a better deal on that bathroom re-do.
I’ll take un certain âge. And I’ll take it fabulously.