Can we not say that the greatest love stories of all time include a very palpable element of insanity? Romeo and Juliet knew one another for like ten seconds and ended up kicking the bucket because of their mutual infatuation. That shit cray.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which premieres October 12th at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, is a musical comedy investigating the motivations of a woman in the throes of romantic fantasy. Oddball could be a polite way to describe it, as the series flings itself between a riotous romp and the deeply depressing.
Intensely complex and objectively unlikeable protagonist Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) is the Rom-Com anti-heroine. We see her at sixteen at the end of a summer at drama camp, dumped by her first love Josh for her erratic behaviour, and then ten years later as a successful lawyer in New York on the track to becoming junior partner at her firm. However, with an overbearing mother and a workaholic lifestyle, she’s haunted by an ad campaign for butter that makes her question her overall happiness.
Cue Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), walking down the street basking in a heavenly light. He lives in New York, but is moving back to West Covina California to live that laid back West Coast vibe. The “glitter exploding inside of her” feeling that this grown man skateboard enthusiast ignites in her leads Rebecca to say no to her new promotion and move out to The Golden State, specifically to a town that’s “only four hours” from the beach and is pretty much a shit hole.
How many times have we witnessed the romantic comedy wherein we see a working woman — too obsessed with her job and success — who must learn to love to live her life more fully? Crazy Ex-Girlfriend takes a jab at this tired formula with an extremely catchy tune about Rebecca’s now beloved West Covina where Josh, just like, happens to live. If anything, it showcases how a chance encounter with someone who gives you the warm fuzzies is not a realistic reason to move across the country. It makes one think that if we took the musical instructions from Disney characters to follow out hearts we would do some pretty impractical shit.
Settling into her new job, which she’s fantastically overqualified for, Rebecca acquaints herself with her new wolfaboo and cartoonishly racist boss. She also meets paralegal Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), who’s threatened by Rebecca’s big city origins and fancy footwear. Paula resolves with an almost religious fervour to determine why Rebecca is there.
After sending a text to Josh complete with emoji flourish and not receiving a swift reply, Rebecca promptly begins to stalk her love through social media. In her quest she meets Greg (Santino Fontana), a sarcastic bartender who says he knows Josh and will take her to a party where he’ll be. He’s into her even though she’s obviously obsessed with Josh and the fact that she ignores him makes her totally his type (perhaps he’s the one who ends up ultimately loving her for who she truly is? Sigh.)
In my favourite musical number of the premiere episode “sexy getting-ready song” in the style of a 90’s R&B music video, Rebecca goes through the rituals that many of us women who subscribe to Western standards of beauty can relate to. She croons while waxing her asshole and squeezing into the sartorial sausage casing that are spanx. Rebecca is interrupted by a guest rapper who is disgusted by the patriarchal bullshit of women’s grooming.
At the party, Rebecca denies the fact that she’s there to see Josh and makes out with Greg while keeping one eye open for her man of the hour. Greg spills the beans (not to be confused his friend who goes by that nickname) that Josh has a girlfriend. Rebecca responds by weepily offering her date a teary blowjob, which he rejects given his life experience where he’s learned not to have sexual relations with crying women.
Paula shows up at the festivities after snooping through Rebecca’s computer and discovering the real reason she’s there. After Rebecca finally admits that she gave up a 500K salary and a life in the big city for a man she barely knows, she spirals into questioning her sanity. But Paula won’t have any of it. She admires her new coworker for taking a chance on love. Paula is sassy best friend material if I ever saw it, and enters into a musical mutual delusion with Rebecca about her prospects for her happily ever after.
Josh never makes it to the party and one can’t help but wonder if this is a kind of Waiting for Godot where our main character experiences an existential crisis as often as she changes a pair of Louboutin shoes.
Weird. Dramatic. In love. Brave. Terms used in the show as synonymous with that the dreaded c-word (well, the other c-word) women often find themselves disproportionately labeled with. I’m conflicted about the series potential: on one hand it’s an opportunity to investigate the dominant narratives about love, womanhood, having it all… but on the other hand it poses the risk of reaffirming the stigma of the overly emotional woman whose actions can be ascribed to a flippant reference to mental illness.
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