HBO has an interesting show on their hands. Kind of a "Sex and the City" for the mumblecore generation, "Girls" was created, written, and directed by Lena Dunham whose critically acclaimed film "Tiny Furniture" harkened an original new voice.
Here, Dunham mines not only the style and rhythm of her earlier film, but half the cast as well. This is a good thing. Her voice tends to revolve around the trials of privileged white girls who are lost in their early twenties with an uncertainty about career, sex, friendships, communication, and family. This pretty much describes her generation to a "t," even if you aren’t as privileged.
In "Girls," Dunham plays Hannah, a writer trying to finish a book of essays so that she can give the finished work to her boss (Chris Eigeman) at a publishing house. Her job is actually an unpaid internship that creates the need for her to be supported by her parents. Unfortunately, as the show opens, mom and dad tell her they will no longer give her money and she is cut-off effectively immediately. They want her to grow up. Hannah, however, just wants to finish her book so she can have a successful career. Poor thing. Sure, she’s spoiled and entitled, but she couldn’t have learned that from anyone but parents who hand her everything. Forced to get a real job, Hannah goes home to her roommate Marnie (Allison Williams), an art curator with the nicest boyfriend - ever (Christopher Abbott.) Hannah and Marnie are inseparable, but completely different people. Marnie is controlling and has high-expectations, and Hannah is a little dumpy and constantly self-deprecating. The two - together - talk about all those things that real people talk about. They talk about how Marnie can’t deal with her boyfriend’s touch anymore because it reminds her of that creepy uncle who keeps touching her leg. Hannah talks openly about her sex buddy who kind of treats her like a sex toy - even though she kind of likes it.
Rounding out the cast is Hannah and Marnie’s free-spirited friend Jessa (Jemima Kirke) who has been traveling the globe so much she hasn’t found a place to land. She moves in with her cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) - a virgin who actually looks at her life as if she is any one of the "Sex and the City" characters at any given time.
The conceit here is that this is truly a spin on HBO’s iconic hit "Sex and the City" in that, not only is it referenced more than once, but also here are four girls - each a type - with the voice of the series being a writer of essays. Sound familiar?
The great part about this show, however, is it knows exactly what it is. It knows it’s the anti-SATC and revels in that. This is how girls in their early twenties really act. This is how sex really is. It’s messy, awkward, and people tend to talk during it rather than have some big soft motion slo-mo rapturous experience. Sometimes it’s kind of kinky and sometimes it’s a little off-putting. And that’s the realism here. The sex is almost too graphic in the way that it seems almost like watching two real people floundering to get satisfaction. And rarely do both get it at the same time.
As for the dialogue, it’s sharp and honest. In the first two episodes, the banter and tone takes some getting used to. You’re not always sure if you’re supposed to laugh or not, even though you’re quietly chuckling. Some of it the situations (Hannah’s f***-buddy, for example) are a bit disconcerting. But by the third episode it truly found its footing and instead of a just few laughs, it became pretty hilarious.
Each episode hits on a different theme. The pilot, for example, deals with "communication." Marnie and her boyfriend are clearly not on the same page, Hannah doesn’t know if her sex friend is more than a sex friend because he doesn’t respond to texts, and Jessa shows herself to be unapologetically late and uncommunicative, all relatable topics. Following episodes tackle abortion, STD’s, and body image to name a few. But it’s done so with an honesty that becomes infectious once you get the rhythm of the show down.
Dunham is a highly talented writer and actor and this show displays that proudly. My fear is that audiences might not know what to make of it at first. It’s a little dark and a little dank. The characters are a little off and the cast is normal looking. That’s not to say they aren’t attractive, but if someone is looking for the glamour of "Sex and the City," this isn’t it. But if you are looking to find people you can actually relate to, rather than dysfunctionally idolize, this is your show. Give it a try and get to the third episode. By then, you’ll be charmed.
"Girls" airs on HBO beginning April 15th at 10:30est/pst.