I managed to see Lena’s lo-fi film Tiny Furniture earlier this year at a late night cinema screening, not knowing much/any background and thought it was a bleakly hilarious introduction to her obsessions and life after college (ok her fictional life), so I really should have known what to expect from GIRLS as I claimed a sofa at Phoebe’s on Friday night with our friends Mary and Giselle. (‘Oh wow there are four of us, just like the ones on the telly!!’ Not intentional).
So, GIRLS. To start with its world, in ten >30 minute episodes which are filmed on sets and a limited number of locations feels very small given all the attention it’s received and the words that have been scrawled about it. That tiny world is inhabited by four brunette women: Hannah (Lena) and three other girls who are all conveniently old friends in real life, supported by several other actors also recognisable from Tiny Furniture so there’s an authentic intimacy in the cosy set-up.
The first important point I’d like to raise is that in the first three episodes there are only two parties – one is a DINNER party, the second is a work party/gallery opening. I don’t think that either of those would count as proper parties IRL.* Maybe it’s because the girls are all broke (‘broke’), but it just doesn’t look like much fun out there. The early 20s used to be about getting drunk, being on the scene, wearing disgraceful clothes, but these ladies are not living their decadent decade as I knew and loathed it.
The second is that on viewing it turns out that the inevitable comparisons (by all sorts of people including references within the show itself) to S&TC have been misleading and slightly irrelevant – it was about four professional women in their 30s dating in New York written by men, given an aspirational advertiser-friendly sheen and highly glamorised. It was all about lifestyle. The GIRLS girls don’t really have lifestyles (NO ONE DOES), they’re just kind of muddling along. There might be a lot of sex in GIRLS too, but it’s not contextualised by cocktail bars and men in suits, more white wine/neuroses/grim STDs/pregnancy/etiquette and sadly the closest they get to crazy fashion is Shoshanna watching daytime TV in a Snuggie.
Thirdly, seeing young women on TV who aren’t styled up as would-be icons and are behaving badly is novel indeed (is it because a woman’s telling the story?). We struggled to suggest comparisons as we sat around the screen – Miranda, Inbetweeners, Peep Show? What GIRLS does have in common with Carrie&Co though, is that it also focusses on four women’s friendships and the changing dynamics between the characters will be fun to watch as the series progresses.
I’m far too old to believe that GIRLS might change/define my life, but I do think it is very very funny.
[And I’m always up for a period reference – there should be more of those in on-screen entertainments generally. See Mad Men S5 Ep12 and Pamflet zine issue one].
Phoebe: Lena/Hannah really reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ characters in most of his work – there was the same mix of arrogance and self-loathing in every smug shoulder shrug, smirk and side-eye. The slapstick and physical comedy also reminded me of our own magnificent Miranda Hart, especially in Hannah’s exchanges with her parents. I count myself lucky that I didn’t have to go through my twenties turned inside-out by social media (as we discussed at great length at the F*ck I’m in my Twenties salon with some genuine GIRLS.) That just seems to add an extra layer of self-consciousness to what is already a pretty awkward time.
GIRLS starts this Monday at 10pm on Sky Atlantic.
[*As Lena might say.]
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