When new streaming service HBO Max launches this Wednesday, May 27th, one of the new, original shows you’ll have the chance to check out is “Love Life”. Anna Kendrick, in her first episodic TV series, is one of the executive producers (along with “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig). Kendrick also stars as Darby. Throughout the 10-episode season, we get to explore Darby’s love life with her — her romantic ups and downs in New York City — over the course of about a decade.
There’s also an outside narrator providing valuable information (and some obvious foreshadowing). She’s voiced by “Phantom Thread” Oscar nominee Lesley Manville. A great, short-lived NBC rom-com series “A to Z” also had an omniscient narrator (Katey Sagal), who explained why twenty-something couple Andrew and Zelda… even through their troubles… were meant to be together.
That’s just one example of how this formula has been presented on screen, and unfortunately, “Love Life” doesn’t live-up to that show or offer much freshness when it comes to the content and themes. The structure of the series has some downsides, too. It’s basically a guy an episode (at least for the first four, which I screened). With each ep. at 30 minutes, we get very little time to know and understand the men, while simultaneously, trying to understand Darby’s emotions towards these men.
The scenes themselves are the “highlights”, if you will… the big events. Weddings. Wakes. Births. Birthdays. Parties. Birthday Parties. Job Promotions/Demotions. “Love Life” also does a lot of time jumps during and between each episode.
Since I first saw her in “Up in the Air” a decade ago, Kendrick has been one of the best actresses in the biz at balancing comedy and drama within the same movie. Sometimes she even pulls it off within the same scene. Kendrick once again dances on that tightrope on “Love Life”, though the edge is definitely given to Drama. HBO Max is submitting her and the series for Primetime Emmys consideration (the first three episodes debut on Wednesday, just four days before the voting cuts off)… but in the Comedy series categories.
If Kendrick ends-up receiving her first-ever Emmy nomination on July 28th, it’ll be for a dramatic performance in a mostly dramatic series that just happens to be a little lighter in tone than “Law & Order” and “The Crown”. Each episode of “Love Life” offers one or two chuckles max, but there aren’t even many attempts at humor (though a few key ones don’t work). This show is about a woman struggling to find herself, the right person she’s supposed to be with and what her contribution is in society. And in several pivotal moments, Kendrick takes us where we want to be with her character on an emotional level. But there’s nothing funny about it.
At times, however, it’s difficult to completely buy the 34-year-old Kendrick playing 24. Her first major role in “Up in the Air” was filled with sophistication and maturity and THEN we went back in time to see her figure life out through the college years (and post-grad) in the “Pitch Perfect’ movies, which began nearly 8 years ago.
Still, fans of hers will probably give “Love Life” a shot. It’s sappy and cliched, but once all 10 episodes are released (likely around July 16th), I can totally see 18-34 year-old women binging the entire season. It only takes 5 hours. Just don’t go in expecting to fall head over heels for it.