Rom-Com Nostalgia

“Love Life” follows Anna Kendrick as one of “those girls who glide through life with a lipstick and a MetroCard”

28 May 2020 | 09:19

To live and date in New York City. This never-gets-old topic is explored by the new streaming service HBO Max with the Anna Kendrick rom-com, "Love Life."

The romantic comedy anthology series follows a different protagonist's quest for love each season — this time ‘round it’s Kendrick’s “Darby Carter,” a child of divorce who’s been trying to make emotional connections since adolescence and chronicles her adult couplings over the course of a decade. This journey from first to lasting love shows us how those we date along the way make us into who we are when we finally end up with our “someone.”

With the first three episodes available for viewing, one can’t help but say “that’s how it is” or if you’re a person of a certain age like me, “was,” when trying to find a guy in the city that never sleeps. (There is no COVID-19 in Darby’s world, where people roam free without masks and hug when they encounter each other.) Of course, she has roommate/BFFs — Sara, Jim and Mallory — who help deconstruct every word, (mis)deed, and head scratch her dates make.

Like the mother of all dating shows to which all others will be compared ad infinitum, "Sex and the City," each week we’re treated to a new man and issue those on the market face, except, because Darby’s stories don’t necessarily go in chronological order, we know her future before she does.

Not as glitzy as SATC, yet not as bleak as "Girls," the double entendre titled show gives us Darby the 2012 NYU student, who remains in Manhattan after graduation to become one of “those girls who glide through life with a lipstick and a MetroCard.” Until that happens, Darby works as a museum docent and has a whirlwind night with Augie, plays the wait-by-the-phone game, then finds herself in full-blown love — with a guy whose new job offer is in Washington D.C.

A year later, she’s doing odd jobs and seeing the requisite divorced, older man whose been-there-done-that attitude clashes with her FOMO, apropos her friends’ bar crawls through the BK, and casts a glaring light on just how awkwardly unsophisticated she truly is.

By 2015, she’s working at the Whitney and has learned when a guy says he’s too busy for a relationship, he means with her, because he’s not too busy for one with a blonde, Boho hippie chick, who Darby stalks on Insta. She also, discovers when you meet a guy who’s still saved the voicemails of his ex who broke up with him three years prior, it’s a red flag.

Of course, the guys she wants don’t want her; the ones who want her she has no interest in. And it’s inevitable, one runs into one’s ex when one is wearing Crocs. There’s also the valuable lesson that “sometimes we're chasing one thing when we’re really chasing something else.”

Darby has a very sweet mom (veteran indie actress Hope Davis), who herself is on Tinder and also struggling to find love, and eventually puts a therapist on the payroll to help her figure out why she’s so bad at relationships, but is she really? Like most women, she blames herself because some man turns out to be not as he portrayed himself originally.

Whereas Carrie & Co. were jaded, and the Hannah Horvath crowd was bratty and entitled, this show’s star is hopeful, something I wish I had been more of decades ago. Like Darby, my future was bright, but the light was always eclipsed by my anxieties that things weren’t going to work out.

The show is charming, and the "Perfect Pitch" actress is as always engaging, but the best thing about it is watching people be out and about in what used to be the normal way.

In our current climate, where people are dating over Zoom, "Love Life" is almost a nostalgia piece, not only making those my age, but twenty-something New Yorkers say, “Remember when?”

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels "Fat Chick," "Back to Work She Goes," and the upcoming "The Last Single Woman In New York City."