Brunch, mani-pedis, and catty breakups occupy a charming, but shallow tale on the woes of millennial women.
It’s not uncommon for us to be subsumed by new relationships, neglecting your friendships as a result. While this may not bother you while you and your partner are together, it can leave you adrift when the relationship ends. This is the fate of Jules (Kat Dennings, 2 Broke Girls) in Hulu’s newest comedy Dollface, a surface-level show about #feminism that coasts by on some charming performances.
Created by first-time showrunner Jordan Weiss, Dollface begins with Jules being dumped by Jeremy (Connor Hines, Angie Tribeca), her boyfriend of five years. Discovering that her social life revolved entirely around him, Jules decides to reconnect with her old college friends Madison (Brenda Song, Secret Obsession) and Stella (Shay Mitchell, Pretty Little Liars). However, her old friends are a little apprehensive, seeing as Jules ditched them once she started dating Jeremy. Despite this, they decide to reconnect.
Helping Jules reintegrate herself into the world of female friendship is the Cat Lady (Beth Grant, A Series of Unfortunate Events), an imaginary(ish) friend of Jules who has a human body and clumsily CG-ed cat head. With the help of her human (and feline) friends, Jules tries to navigate her career and personal life as a newly single woman in LA.
Like many comedies, the main cast is made up of people you wouldn’t imagine being friends in real life. Jules is an introvert who doesn’t seem to understand how platonic relationships work; Madison is a perfectionist who is obsessed with her career and climbing the social ladder; Stella is a party girl who would rather go out and housesit than get a job. The squad is rounded out by Izzy (Esther Povitsky, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), an oddball colleague of Jules. Izzy is desperate to be popular but lacks all social skills. The group shouldn’t work, but they have surprising chemistry that makes their dynamic a bit more believable (and watchable).
As Jules, Dennings is endearingly awkward, making her likable even when she makes poor choices. Likewise, Madison could have been annoying, but Song plays her with incredible warmth. Stella could easily be pigeonholed as the archetypal Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but Mitchell gives her a chill vibe that makes her feel less like a cliche. Povitsky’s deadpan line delivery and odd behavior make Izzy the show’s clear breakout.
The settings of Dollface are just as colorful as its characters, throwing Jules into fantasy sequences that attempt to elevate her millennial routines into something significant. Sunday brunch is a fellowship event akin to church; Jules’ debate about going out turns into a game show, and one episode turns attending the women’s march into a parody of The Wizard of Oz. These fantasy set-pieces help immerse you into Jules’ thought process and keep Dollface fresh and interesting.
The ‘real world’ is also just as kooky as the fantasy bits, giving even the more realistic scenes a sense of surrealism. This is most noticeable in the scenes that take place at Jules’ job at Woom, a parody of the GOOP lifestyle brand. Woom is a clear dig at LA’s hippie-dippie subculture, with its impractical products (the pilot has the characters attend a launch party for a quartz suppository) and idiotic feel-good corporate policies (a group of employees throws away anything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’, which includes all the staplers in the office).
…fighting for gender equality means doing more than just having brunch.
Dollface’s main priority is to center itself on the interpersonal lives of women, and it isn’t shy about its objective. Nearly every episode has a conversation about the importance of female friendships, and the episodes tend to focus on a specific subtheme (i.e. keeping secrets, or the pressures of being the “fun” friend). In fact, the show’s habit of didactic hammering of its themes makes Dollface feel like a version of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic where the ponies can drink.
The on-the-nose nature of the #girlpower message may have been less annoying if its critique of gender politics weren’t so shallow. Yes, the focus is solely on women and their problems, but only certain types of women and certain types of problems. All the main characters have well-paying jobs, nice apartments, and access to healthcare. As such, Dollface ‘s understanding of feminism ignores structural inequalities and instead frames female empowerment in terms of self-care, career advancement, and the vague concept of women supporting each other. This could have worked really well as a critique of the solipsism of neoliberal lean-in white feminism, but that would be a little out of scope for the series.
Perhaps it isn’t fair to decry Dollface for not being a masterstroke of feminist theory. After all, it’s hardly the only show that is shilling this shallow type of commercialized feminism, nor is it the worst offender. Taking it for what it is, the message of making sure that you don’t neglect platonic relationships when you have a romantic partner is a good one. Still, while you watch you should keep in mind that fighting for gender equality means doing more than just having brunch.
Dollface is currently available on Hulu.
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