Have you seen “Emily in Paris”? It’s fun, but oh-la-la! the exaggerations!
The story is about a young social media whiz sent at the last minute to fill in for a French-speaking senior colleague. Our heroine, Emily, is neither senior nor able to speak French. She doesn’t even have experience in the same sector as the Paris office she’s sent to. But she bubbles over about how she’s going to teach them. No wonder they aren’t happy with her.
The French co-workers almost all speak English, fluently. This part is true, especially in an office full of university-educated people. In my village, the kids started learning English in preschool–age 3–and through high school it’s obligatory. Math is optional after 10th grade, but English is required. And a second foreign language.
When Emily goes into a boulangerie and asks for “une pain au chocolate,” the boulangère corrects her–“un pain au chocolat,” and asks whether she wants anything else. Emily pays no attention, as if nobody is even speaking to her. The baker is a little taken aback. She patiently goes through the coins Emily dumps on the tray to pay. I realize it’s confusing to use new money, but they are all marked with numbers and I assume she can look at the amount on the cash register and add, no French needed.
Some viewers may look at this as an example of French service sector rudeness, but I saw someone being not just efficient and competent but also patient and helpful. I have never had a consistently rude waiter or salesperson in France. Sometimes I’ve been pigeonholed as “oh, no, an American,” but we always get past that. The French are extremely professional. Waiter is as good a job as any, with a living wage that doesn’t rely on tips, and full health-care coverage thanks to excellent socialized medicine. Same with working in retail. It isn’t like New York, where nobody is a waiter–they are actors and singers and artists working at this restaurant to pay the bills until they get their big break and you are annoying them by expecting them to serve you. And often, here, they speak at least some English. Try finding multilingual staff in the U.S. Or signs and menus in other languages. Why are people surprised to find things in French in France?
There’s a story line about how the boss, Sylvie, is the mistress of a big client, and the client’s wife not only knows about it but sanctions it and is Sylvie’s best friend. The show is from the same guy who did “Sex in the City,” so bed-hopping is to be expected. And maybe in certain bourgeois households in big cities, this kind of arrangement happens, the way it does among the wealthy in New York and Los Angeles. Well, probably not the being friends with the mistress part, but the casual infidelity where Mr. Master of the Universe affirms his virility by acquiring a younger mistress while Mrs. MoU looks the other way in order to preserve her place in the realm. (See: famous couple recently infected by Covid-19.) I surveyed my French friends: nope. Not normal. Would be fodder for juicy gossip.
Example: As a pre-coronavirus dinner party drew to its close, the women carried the dishes to the kitchen, and stories were dished over last glasses of wine. There was talk about the adventures of one couple, now deceased. The husband was unfaithful. The wife found out and sought revenge by sleeping with the husband’s business partner. She got pregnant, and their son looked nothing like the husband, although he accepted him as his own. This is not a titillating story. The son, who I’m told is the spitting image of his biological father, seems to carry immense sadness, as if he has a dark cloud over his head in a Charlie Brown way. No wonder.
There’s another scene where Emily is invited to a friend’s family home in the country. She sleeps with the friend’s brother. The mother talks to Emily later, and asks whether the sex was good–she wants to be reassured her son is good to women. That part I can almost believe. Once when visiting some friends, the son’s girlfriend came into the kitchen in the morning, having spent the night. The mother asked whether she had a good time, and told her to insist on it. I think there is no better birth control than the pressure to have absolutely amazing sex every time.
In that same episode, Emily walks out to the pool, where the father is sunbathing naked. She is shocked. He isn’t. It’s set up as if he exposed himself to her, but he was at his home, doing his thing. If you think he realized she was shocked, then what he did was really gracious: he acted like nothing happened. For him, nothing did happen. Nudity isn’t a big deal here. It isn’t like people rip off their clothes, but, for example, if you go for a medical exam, there’s no paper gown to put on. They tell you to take off your clothes (maybe above the waist or below, depending on your exam), and where to put them, and then you sit and wait naked. When I went for a mammogram, I was shuffled topless from the x-ray room to the sonogram room. It was through inner doors, not the public area, but still, walking who knows where, away from my clothes, was like being in the ocean and coming up for air to see your boat drifting away. And then you realize nobody cares about your boobs. Or they do care, but about the insides. They see boobs all day. Get over it.
One scene that’s very true is when Emily bites into the previously mentioned pain au chocolat and it’s a revelation. I vividly recall my first Belgian waffle, at a Belgaufre near la Monnaie, the opera house in Brussels. It was cold and drizzling, of course, and dark even though it wasn’t late. I remember all the people going by, the way the drizzle softened the golden glow of the street lamps and made the sidewalks sparkle. The month must have been November, which is when I moved there. I got a chocolate-dipped gaufre. It was warm–they make them on the spot. The chocolate was amazing, of course. Nobody does chocolate better than the Belgians. And the waffle! Moist, a little chewy, with little crunches of sugar. Some of those little sugar bombs caramelized on the outside of the waffle as it cooked. OMG.
“Emily in Paris” is worth watching, if nothing else, for the radiant smile of Lucas Bravo, who plays Emily’s hunky neighbor, and all the shots of Paris, the most beautiful city in the world. It’s Paris porn, which is the best kind.