Modern Love, Amazon Prime Video
- Brian Donaldson
- 18 October 2019
Anthology of stories about contemporary romance veer from delightful to dull
The current US president might dub The New York Times as 'failing', but when it comes to columns about love that can be saccharine, schmaltzy and sweetly sentimental, they have it down to a fine art. John Carney (the Irish writer/director behind Once and Sing Street) has used the newspaper's source material to curate an eight-part anthology series about individuals and their own gently bruised take on love in the 21st century.
With a cast including Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel, Tina Fey, Andrew Scott, John Slattery and Catherine Keener that is uniformly, exorbitantly photogenic, Olivia Cooke gazumps all of these gorgeous humans by playing a long-term homeless person with a skunk habit who looks like she just stepped out of the shower to go straight onto the catwalk.
Among the stories, we have a gay couple adopting a child from a woman who seems a little wayward; a tech entrepreneur has created the perfect dating app despite being awfully unlucky in love; a young woman with serious dad issues pursuing meaning with her silver-fox boss. Some episodes are endearing, most are a little flat and forgettable, though the half-hour with an excellent Anne Hathaway whose character fails to find love due to her bipolar disorder is a powerful and welcome change of mood and pace.
Equally satisfying is watching Slattery effectively playing Denis Leary. In the episode adapted by Sharon Horgan from Ann Leary's column about their marriage troubles and attempt at therapy is amusingly distracting, though it's diluted somewhat by endless scenes of the pair playing tennis in an overcooked metaphor for their unfolding relationship. And in the final episode, the joys of finding new love in old age marginally sidesteps the schmaltz to offer a harsh sense of reality. But even then, Carney can't stop himself from giving us a finale in which the preceding seven tales clamber their way in, as the anthology's characters brush past each other. The effect is meant to bring us a comforting closure, but just feels bashed together and queasily predictable.
Episodes watched: 8 of 8
Modern Love is available on Amazon Prime Video, Friday 18 October.