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Fleishman is in Trouble TV Review

Ground: The story of recently divorced 41-year-old Toby Fleishman, who dives into the new world of app-based dating with the kind of success he never had in his youth, before getting married at the end of medical school. But just at the start of his first summer of sexual freedom, his ex-wife, Rachel, disappears, leaving him with Hannah, 11, and Solly, 9, with no idea where she is or if she plans to return. As he balances parenthood, the return of old friends Libby and Seth, a potential hospital promotion that’s been a long time coming – and all the eligible women Manhattan has to offer – he realizes he can never figure out what happened to Rachel until he can finally come to terms with what happened to their marriage in the first place.

Exam: Jesse Eisenberg is an actor whose mannerisms and speech have always been pulled straight from a Woody Allen movie. Of zombieland at The social network and even batman versus superman, Eisenberg was adept at playing characters that embody his signature delivery. Although Eisenberg has previously worked with Woody (see 2016’s Coffee Company), his nebulous attitude was not used as it could have been in this film. Fleishman is in trouble is the 21st century equivalent of a classic Woody Allen comedy, but grounded in ideas of marriage, divorce, dating, and modern life in New York. With witty voice-over narration and a very timely look at dating during quarantine, Fleishman is in trouble combines humor with mystery that delves into the very nature of relationships and what it means to be both parent and spouse. It is also an unexpected satire of modern American life.

The eight-episode limited series (all of which were made available for this review) follows recently divorced Toby Fleishman (Eisenberg), a hepatologist who earns big bucks working in a New York City hospital. With an acrimonious separation from his wife Rachel (Claire Danes) driving Toby apart from his son and daughter, he finds solace in the dozens of women who suddenly find him attractive as a newly eligible bachelor. Toby also reconnects with his college friends Seth (Adam Brody) and Libby (Lizzy Caplan). The trio reminisce about their college days after traveling to Israel together and supporting each other when Rachel goes missing, leaving Toby to serve as the primary caregiver for her children. As the series progresses, Toby begins to deal with the traumatic reality that the collapse of his marriage has done to him while trying to come to terms with what happened to his ex-wife.

Fleishman is in trouble picks up an interesting tone and perspective as Lizzy Caplan tells the story in character as Libby. Caplan, one of my longtime favorite actresses, does a great job here as her own character explores similar issues to Toby as she faces the monotony of being a career-missing stay-at-home mom and wife. hectic life she left behind. Adam Brody is excellent as bachelor Seth who balances his two friends with a seemingly carefree life that turns out to be anything but. In many ways, Fleishman is in trouble feels like the millennial elder equivalent of sex and the city but with a more realistic angle to the storytelling as well as a sense of humor. The three main characters, along with Claire Danes as Rachel, have plenty of character development that makes them both relatable and intriguing to watch. The series also contains a very heavy dose of Jewish-American humor as well as a satirical take on the privileged upper-class lifestyle that the Fleishmans frequently fight for.

Fleishman is in trouble back and forth between Toby’s current post-divorce existence and his search for Rachel, as well as flashbacks to his college years and how he met his future wife. Eisenberg, Caplan, Brody, and Danes all play out in their early twenties through their forties, each as convincingly as if the scenes had been filmed twenty years apart. The dynamic between Eisenberg and Caplan is one of the best on the show, with the two sharing a chemistry that has had me rooting both individually and with each other. Danes is also quite good in her role and manages to take on Eisenberg every time they share a scene. All in all, it’s another showcase for Eisenberg who is able to break out of the nebulous personality of a Woody Allen avatar and embody one of the best roles of his career.

What helps to turn Fleishman is in trouble from any other series to something stronger and better, it’s the balance between writing and directing that helps these actors bring this story to life. Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote seven of the eight episodes, adapting her own novel, which helps this story feel as rich and layered as the source material. The only episode she didn’t script was written by Mike Goldbach (Become a God in Central Florida). The directing team is led by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, best known for directing the brilliant Little Miss Sunshine. Dayton and Faris directed three of the eight episodes with Alice Wu directing one and Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor) who led the other four. All of the filmmakers together deliver a cohesive story that has a really unique visual style, but mostly leverages the excellent script and allows the cast to bring that story to life.

Fleishman is in trouble is one of the best dramas I’ve seen in a while that manages to be incredibly funny as well as affecting. I felt very connected to these characters who are all the same age as me and the story tells a very similar journey into adulthood as many of us who went to college in the late 90s/ in the early 2000s felt. It may not be such a relevant story for younger audiences, but anyone who has been married, been in love, or questioned their lives will find a valuable connection to Toby Fleishman’s existential crisis. Fleishman is in trouble is the best Woody Allen movie Woody Allen has ever directed and should earn everyone involved an Emmy nomination. Jesse Eisenberg is stellar, as are Lizzy Caplan, Claire Danes and Adam Brody in a series that made me laugh almost as much as any other show I’ve seen this year.

Fleishman is in trouble premieres with two episodes on November 17 on Hulu.

9

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