Netflix series 'Love' review: 'Could be best thing Judd Apatow associated with since Freaks and Geeks in 1999'
LOVE, all 10 episodes of which are available on Netflix, could well be the best thing Judd Apatow has been associated with since the short-lived, much-loved Freaks and Geeks all the way back in 1999.
Adored by the critics and an unshakeable core of dedicated fans, but ignored by the wider audience, Freaks and Geeks wasn’t, strictly speaking, Apatow’s baby.
He wrote or co-wrote a few episodes and acted as executive producer, but the creator and chief writer was Paul Feig, who went on to make Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy.
Nonetheless, it helped catapult Apatow, who’s frequently collaborated with Freaks and Geeks alumni James Franco, Seth Rogan and Jason Segel, as well as with Will Ferrell and his creative partner Adam McKay, to his current position of Hollywood comedy uber-producer.
(Oddly, Linda Cardellini, whose character Lindsay was the heart and soul of Freaks and Geeks, hasn’t enjoyed the same high profile as the members of the above boys’ club. That’s Hollywood equality for you.)
Apatow’s imprint — whether as producer, writer, director or all three — has been on a string of box-office hits in the past 10 years: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the Anchorman movies, Superbad, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year-Engagement, Trainwreck and a dozen-and-a-half others besides. He’s even executive producer on Lena Dunham’s insufferable Girls.
If you love the Apatow brand — and a brand is what it is at this stage — you’ll most likely love Love. Freaks and Geeks aside (and that was a long time ago now), I mostly don’t love the Apatow brand, so I was surprised to find I liked the first two episodes of Love a lot.
I didn’t love it, although I may get there in the end. I certainly laughed loud and often, and there are worse foundations on which to build a relationship. The love may well come when I’ve watched a bit more. It’s early days, after all.
It’s early days too for Love’s couple, the nervy, nerdy Gus, played by Paul Rust — who’s co-written the series with his wife, Lesley Arfin, and Apatow, and has obviously absorbed a lot of Woody Allen into his comedy DNA — and the volatile, screwed-up, self-destructive Mickey, a whip-smart performance by Gilllan Jacobs.
Love is set in Los Angeles, which provides the opportunity to surround the central characters with a wonderful array of dippy goofballs. Gus works as an on-set tutor to an obnoxious child star (played by Apatow’s daughter, Iris), who tells him she doesn’t need to know maths to handle her earnings, because her accountant is “an orthodox Jew — I think he knows what he’s doing”. Mickey toils joylessly in a digital radio station, which I imagine is the bottom feeder’s bottom nibbler in Hollywood.
When we first meet them, separately, they’re in the process of humping their respective partners — in Gus’s case, it’s a straight-from-the-catalogue home-maker who keeps her pyjama jacket on in bed; in Mickey’s, a slobbish slacker who does way too much coke, lives with his mother (who also helps him pick out trousers) and finds a use for a kitchen table that Ikea never intended. A couple of scenes on, they’re dumping them.
Having crashed out of their respective relationships, they crash into one another — but not straight away. The obligatory “meet cute” scene is held off until the climax of the first episode, where Gus gallantly intervenes in a convenience store to pay for the cash-strapped, hungover Mickey’s coffee. In a hint that Love is not your typical romcom, she asks him to spring for a pack of cigarettes as well.
Love has an awful lot going for it. The performances are great, the writing is excellent, the dialogue is inventively foul-mouthed (love isn’t the only four-letter word used here) and often riotously funny, and the relationship at the centre of it is a satisfying mix of sweet (the second episode is like Before Sunset, remade with F-words and drugs) and sour.
But the familiar Apatowisms, if you can put it like that, creep in. I’m no oil painting, unless the oil painting in question is a Cubist interpretation of one of the Easter Island heads. Neither is Paul Rust.
There’s a bit where he’s initiated into a threesome by a couple of, to use the vernacular, hot chicks. The punchline is they’re sisters, causing him to recoil. But it still comes across as narcissistic wish fulfilment. Still, we have another date.