Now Streaming: MODERN LOVE Invites Melancholy, Welcomes Sentimentality
John Carney ('Sing Street') developed the romantic anthology series from a New York Times column.
People who live in Manhattan need romance, too!
Begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on October 18, 2019.
John Carney, known for the hard-scrabble, music-driven romances Once (2007) and Sing Street (2016), explores new romantic territory in Modern Love: love among the privileged who live in Manhattan.
Developed by Carney from a series of essays by different writers, first published in a New York Times column, the stories invariably follow the romantic travails of men and women who are financially stable and professionally established in The City That Never Sleeps. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, although it reinforces the stereotype that the august New York Times is only intended for the well-heeled, even when relating stories of love.)
Within those confines, Carney fashions appealing episodes that feature diverse characters who are searching for romance, first, and, love, too, in its many forms. Carney wrote and directed the first three episodes. The first follows a single woman (Cristin Milioti) whose choice of boyfriends is constantly scrutinized by her kind doorman (Laurentiu Possa), with whom she forms a unique friendship.
In the second episode, a journalist (Catherine Keener) interviews a tech entrepreneur (Dev Patel) who created a dating app, which leads to stories about their own past romantic entanglements. Anne Hathaway stars in the third episode, a startling tale which begins as a free-range musical, complete with songs and dancing, before morphing into a very personal and touching tale.
Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe) directed and cowrote the fourth episode, which bounces between bitterness, regret, and sharp wit as a longtime couple (Tina Fey and John Slattery) struggle with the possible end of their troubled relationship. Tom Hall directed the fifth episode, a 'truth is possibly stranger than fiction' depiction of a night that turns incredibly eventful and revelatory for two strangers (John Gallagher Jr. and Sofia Boutella).
Tackling the issue of love between generations, Audrey Wells wrote and Emmy Rossum directed an episode about a relationship that blooms between a young office worker (Julia Garner) and an older "genius" in the office (Shea Whigham). John Carney directed the penultimate episode about a gay couple (Andrew Scott, Brandon Kyle Goodman) and their relationship with a homeless surrogate (Olivia Cooke).
Finally, Tom Hall directed the concluding episode, trailing behind two people (Jane Alexander, James Saito) who fall in love late in life.
What I most enjoyed about the series is the opportunity to enjoy actors in roles that play against their type, at least in my mind. So watching Shea Whigham, a longtime favorite as a grumpy authority figure, instead playing a quiet genius in a lovely, nuanced performance? Marvelous! Or the opportunity to see Sofia Boutella, a striking figure in dynamic action roles, instead playing a romantic lead as an insecure woman who retains her agency? Excellent!
This, then, is the true appeal of an anthology series, such as this one, for viewers like myself. Frankly, as a grumpy, aging person, happy or even bittersweet romantic stories hold limited appeal at this stage of my life. And I'd be more compelled by the episodes here if they featured invaders from space or monsters from the depths of the oceans.
Still, I love John Carney's feature films, including the woefully neglected Begin Again (2013), which was a music-driven romance set in Manhattan, and his touch helps to make the series stand out.
Summing up: Even the losers may enjoy watching the stars shine in romantic old New York.
Note: All eight episodes, each running about 30 minutes, were made available for preview. Now Streaming covers international and indie genre films and TV shows that are available on legal streaming services.