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The New Rom-Com Model of 'Love' on Netflix: It's Complicated
February 18, 2016  | By David Hinckley
 

The 21st century makeover of the rom-com continues with Love, a new Netflix series whose first 10 episodes drop Friday morning (2/19).

Love stars Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs as Gus and Mickey (top, both), a potential couple who must be half centipede considering how many of their own feet they trip over.

Awkwardness is not an unusual premise for a rom-com, but where classic would-be couples tend to face frothy little problems rooted in silly misunderstandings, the issues in Love run darker and deeper.

Gus is romantic, nerdy and neurotic, not always in a light sitcom way. Mickey is an addict who’s afraid of all the things she wants, including love.

Jacobs (below, right) plays Mickey brilliantly enough to pretty much steal the show. When she’s not on screen, we’re waiting for her to return. Not because she’s always likeable, which she isn’t, but because we all know a Mickey, someone who seems so much sadder than she should be.

Nor is she just sad in a wistful way, as if she broke up with a long-time boyfriend. Like Aya Cash’s Gretchen on FX’s You’re the Worst, Mickey clearly suffers from depression, and probably serious depression.

Traditional rom-coms have tended to skirt around that sort of uncomfortable affliction. Not this one. While Love never forgets its comic mission, it also dwells at length on both Mickey’s depression and the façade behind which she tries to hide or deny it.

It won’t shock anyone that Love was co-created by Judd Apatow, with Rust and Lesley Arlin. Apatow for years has been rewiring big-screen rom-coms into films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Trainwreck.

Love continues that work, and because it’s a series, it takes its time with the Gus-and-Mickey part of the show. Several episodes linger on side dramas that feed the main stream, with a strong cast of mostly young-and-single characters who are also trying to cope with the shifting cultural landscape of the social media age.

That’s often as funny as it sounds, and Love also doesn’t neglect the pop culture details. A whole website could spring up around the T-shirts worn by the Love characters, particularly Mickey.

Regular TV watchers will also note that Gus’s first girlfriend is played by Milana Vayntrub, who is better known these days as Lily Adams in the AT&T commercials.

No AT&T ad is likely ever to include the lines she has here.

 

Not surprisingly, some of these side dramas work better than others. The show’s meandering path also makes it harder to establish Gus as the potential solution to Mickey’s problems.

He has a good heart and all that, and their first chance meeting has a classic touch. He pays for her coffee at a convenience store because she forgot her wallet.

But he’s got long-term problems of his own, and in the new rom-com model, characters aren’t wired as neatly as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to dance into the sunset and live happily ever after.

So even though viewers will desperately want Mickey to find someone who can wash away her unhappiness, they may not insist it be Gus.

The first season leaves a lot dangling, so it’s good news that Love has already been signed for a second season. Besides, Love deserves it. A new-fangled rom-com is way better than no rom-com at all.

 
 
 
 
 
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