I’m going to say, straight off the bat, that Joe Swanberg’s new Netflix series Easy is something you’re either going to love, or absolutely hate.
The eight-piece series dips into the lives of a variety of characters in Chicago, exploring questions of love, relationships and sex. If you’re a fan of Swanberg’s film work (Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas, Digging for Fire) it’s likely that you’ll enjoy his new series. A figurehead of the mumblecore movement, Swanberg continues this genre over into Easy, with each episode co-written alongside the actors and heavily improvised during filming. This allows for an authenticity and natural flow in dialogue that brightens the, oftentimes, dull characters and relationships. Elements that have become Swanberg-staples over the years are all present, including an eclectic soundtrack, a love of craft beer, and familiar collaborators such as Orlando Bloom and Jake Johnson
When Easy gets it right, it gets it really right. One standout episode in particular is ‘Vegan Cinderella,’ which effectively works as a half-hour romcom between two women, one a vegan activist and the other an impressionable, meat and dairy lover determined to make the new relationship work by throwing herself face-first into veganism, cycling and the world of independent film. Easily the most charming episode of the series, Swanberg delivers a lovely look at queer, interracial relationship, which are criminally under-represented in film and television. Another episode, ‘Controlada,’ unfolds entirely in the central couple’s native Spanish, due to Swanberg’s desire to portray the large Latinx community in Chicago. Orlando Bloom’s threesome episode has received the most attention due to somewhat blatant reasons, but the episode also successfully manages to delve into an enlightening exploration of polyamory.
However, if you harvest negative feelings towards ‘hipsters’ and people (arguably) talking about nothing for around twenty-seven minutes an episode, it’s probably not the show for you. The length of these vignettes mean that many of them lack closure, and if you’re not quickly invested in the characters, you may find your attention drifting elsewhere. Some scenes are just downright uncomfortable, and the sex scenes start to feel rather gratuitous a few episodes in, especially if you devour the series in one sitting.
That being said, the reason that many may condemn this show is the same reason I so thoroughly enjoyed it. Easy is a series about millennials, created by someone who doesn’t hate millennials. In a time where mainstream media is so quick to criticise the current generation and our relationships with technology, activism and self-exploration, Swanberg and Easy fully embrace it. In the episode ‘Art and Life,’ we see the ongoing battle between generations, in which a middle-aged graphic-novelist is exploited by a twenty-something photographer. The episode reflects on the progression of art alongside technology, and questions why his self-reflective comic-strips should be considered worthy of more merit than her selfie-stick series. Whilst this episode could be considered a little twee, it still clearly makes its point about the older generation’s belittling view of our generation.
Whilst easy to criticise, there is a charm to this short series that makes it entirely binge-able and enjoyable. If you’re a lover of Swanberg or the cast, or particularly a digester of short stories, this show might be a surprising breath of fresh air amidst Netflix’s recent releases.