After watching the first episode of “Love Life,” I was prepared to be disappointed, anticipating another depiction of a clueless millennial woman bumbling through a big city, chasing her dreams and ultimately ending up in a loop of awkward situations and missteps.
Instead, however, what I got out of this show was a story about the connections we have with the people we love and the intricate process of learning from our mistakes and growing up.
“Love Life,” created by Sam Boyd, is a romantic comedy anthology series on HBO Max starring Anna Kendrick, who plays the people-pleasing Darby Carter, an art museum tour guide with ambitions of becoming a curator.
The show follows Darby from her first relationship to her last. From high school rejection to casual hookups and could-be forevers, “Love Life” succeeds in capturing not only what the many brands of romantic relationships may look like, but also the loving (and sometimes unloving) relationships we have with our friends and family.
We have no manual explaining how to love ourselves or others; if we did, we’d probably be too busy actually being in our ever-changing relationships to read it.
“Love Life” also triumphs in its ability to portray multiple characters’ stories, avoiding a common rom-com pitfall of pigeonholing Darby’s friends, family and dates as flat and formulaic side characters.
From Darby’s roommate and best friend, Sara Yang (Zoë Chao), to Darby’s mom (Hope Davis) to romantic interests like Augie Jeong (Jin Ha), the supporting characters have well-developed and unique plotlines and personal struggles that influence their decisions. The complexity of every character in this show drives home the central point that relationships are two-sided and makes each episode all the more relatable.
With quaint and calming narration by Lesley Manville sprinkled throughout the season and a soundtrack featuring The National, Fetty Wap, Yumi Zouma and Rex Orange County, the mood of the series sways easily from reflective to fun, but never strays from being enjoyable.
Though some critics have described the show as less developed than the 1998 sitcom “Sex and the City,” I would argue that their contention is flawed in trying to equate “Love Life,” the story of one woman’s life told in a 10-episode season, with the saga of four women’s lives told over the course of almost 100 episode, six seasons and two full-length movies — it’s like comparing a slice of chocolate cake to a whole bakery. Yes, I’d probably enjoy trying everything the bakery makes, but I’m not going to complain about the delicious slice of cake in front of me.
In summarizing my feelings about “Love Life,” I am struck by a line spoken by Kingsley Ben-Adir’s character Grant in the final episode of season one: “If everyone had to be perfect before they fell in love, the human race would die out.”
Don’t get stuck on the first episode or two. Watching Darby transform from being insecure in her ability to be loved and desperate to fix broken relationships with sex or a wedding ring to taking charge of her career and standing up for what she wants and living her life — not mistake-free by any means, but confidently and for herself — is truly inspiring.
Knowledge is subject to the context of a specific moment, and “Love Life” masterfully encapsulates the message that love is too. When you finally find the person you end up spending the rest of your life with, it is neither announced by the universe, nor does it fix your problems or immediately change who you are as a person, but it shouldn’t. Love, like life, just sort of happens. (4.5/5)