Netflix’s ‘Easy’ an easy watch
Erin McAuliffe | Tuesday, November 8, 2016
“Easy” is easy to watch. The Netflix series’ short, episodic format and realistic, if “yuppie,” content channel half-hour Instagram stories: aesthetically-curated in a “real-life,” personal way. Shots of The Bean, lattes and brunch flood the series, each episode opens with colorful title art designed by a different artist and episode five even features a selfie artist.
One season of eight half-hour installments, you can watch “Easy” episodes as stand-alone relationship studies and in any order (however, you do need to watch episode three before episode eight — an odd hiccup in the series’ structure).
As someone who didn’t hop on the “Mad Men” bandwagon until after the finale (I know, I know), I’ve been wading through the show’s six seasons of hour-long episodes for years. “Easy,” a Netflix original, is wrapped into a neat one-season package that will requires approximately the same viewing period as a sub-par Notre Dame football game. This is the second Netflix original series to take an episodic approach on a usually binge-reliant platform: “The Characters” gave six comedians free reign over half-hour slots, creating a variety of skit comedy held together only by a similar title sequence.
Although”Easy” has a similar format to “The Characters,” every episode was written and directed by Joe Swanberg in his hometown, Chicago. The show’s sense of rooted place shines and intrigues, especially as many Notre Dame seniors consider living in the city after school. The episodes shout out Dark Matter coffee, Half Acre brewery and Don’t Fret art, supplying viewers with just enough material to satisfy the “insufferable yuppie” title that The Ringer gave the series based on the “sure sign we’re in the presence of yuppies: Orlando Bloom as a hot dad.”
Speaking of Bloom, the show’s casting is impressive. Swanberg employed big names for half-hour showings and manages to avoid residual typecasting effects with ease: Aya Cash (a fumbling adult-in-the-making in FX series “You’re The Worst”) acts as a surprisingly “normie,” pregnant character in episodes three and eight. Marc Maron (host of “WTF Podcast”) gets it on with Emily Ratajkowski (model in the “Blurred Lines” video) in episode five.
The series’ character structure resembles “High Maintenance,” a web series turned HBO show — there are some intertwined story lines but as much by the chance of “small world” mentality. Essentially, Swanberg’s direction and development of place function as much to unite episodes as The Guy, “High Maintenance” creator Ben Sinclair’s friendly marijuana deliveryman character.
Swanberg has experience in content that is easy to watch, his film “Kissing on the Mouth” sparked the beginnings of mumblecore, a film genre focused on naturalism that encourages improv amongst conversational “likes” and “umms.” Swanberg has two mumblecore films currently on Netflix, “Happy Christmas” and “Drinking Buddies.” Although “Easy” is his first foray into television, he called on some actors he’s cast in his films: Orlando Bloom (“Digging for Fire”) and Jake Johnson (“Digging for Fire,” “Drinking Buddies”).
Mumblecore films essentially leave you questioning the outcome and effect of what you just spent an hour and a half watching — and “Easy” does the same. Episodes end with a character chopping vegetables or Skittles pieces spinning into oblivion.
The realistic aspect of mumblecore is striking at points, especially since I fall into the “Chicago-looking senior” category mentioned earlier. The poignant work-life balance struggles in a city where many of us will soon be working and living is illustrated throughout the series. In the first episode, a husband and wife struggle to make time for each other between phone calls regarding jobs and kids. In the seventh episode a female actress breaks up with her longtime boyfriend — whom we impressively feel for although we only see him (Jake Johnson) on Skype calls — to pursue new developments in her career.
The relationships examined in “Easy” span relationships, family and friendships, and the proximity of place makes their careful understanding even more poignant. Take the time to watch this series and jot down notes for how to pursue your own Swanberg-approved “insufferable yuppie,” Instagram story-worthy trip to Chicago.