Slice of life is an extremely overused term when it comes to describing a movie or tv show, but Joe Swanberg’s EASY is almost the perfect example of the slice of life series. With eight different episodes, focused on eight different relationships, Swanberg paints a picture of love, relationships, and sex in 2016. The concept is so simple that there is almost no concept, simply stories of ordinary people trying to figure out their lives in Chicago. It is eight slices of life, and they all feel grounded in the clueless reality of modern day love.
With the exception of the final episode, each story is distinctly separate from the rest. Occasionally there are glimpses of connection between episodes, but each is its own self contained story. Coming from Netflix, this is very refreshing, seeing as shows are more and more often basically just a very long movie. Easy, on the other hand can almost be watched out of order. There might be a missed “oh yeah that guy” in there, but essentially each episode is a self contained look into the personal details of someone’s romantic struggles.
These kind of small scale love stories are so often told simply from the perspective of white heterosexual couples. And though Easy has its fair share of those, there is so much more than simply that demographic. The second episode, “Vegan Cinderella” is about an interracial lesbian relationship, and they are allowed to have the same ups and downs that the nice married white people have. Ninety percent of the fourth episode “Controlada” takes place is Spanish, because guess what — there are a lot of Spanish speakers in Chicago. None of these inclusions are treated as a Very Special Episode, either. They are just telling human stories. And human stories include far more levels than what we are used to seeing in typical indie romantic comedies.
This is just one of the elements that highlights that all these stories are very much of this era of hipster breweries and tinder, which respectively drive plots of episodes “Brewery Brothers” and “Utopia”. This is the era of the millennial, and Easy both praises and gently mocks it. In the hilarious fifth episode, “Art and Life,” there is almost a generational debate about, well, art and life. Marc Maron, plays Jacob, a graphic novelist who is essentially Marc Maron, finds himself at odds artistically with grad student Allison (Emily Ratajkowski) that he sleeps with. Instead of going down the obvious road of just scoffing at her selfie art, they have discussions about it, and discussion about the portrayal of real people in art. Though the two don’t come to a consensus, the mere act of talking about these issues is clearly very gratifying for both parties. There doesn’t need to be a complete conclusion.
This lack of conclusion is a recurring theme within Easy. Though some stories to have a distinct ending, others feel more open. The penultimate episode, “Chemistry Read” is the story of Sophie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an actress going through a break up who might uproot her entire life to move to LA. We never get the answer of if she moves her not, or any typical resolution, but rather linger in her uncertainty, which is much more true to life than a tight and polished ending to a story.
Sometimes Easy will tell stories we have heard many times, and think we know the ending too, and then the other shoe does not even drop, or drops in an unexpected way. For example, “Utopia” involves a couple trying to have a threesome with a friend. Throughout the whole episode there is a tension felt that something is going to go terribly wrong with this threesome and that it will find a way to cause a rift in a marriage. None of that happens though, and it’s a simple and sweet story of sexual shenanigans. In “Controlada,” however, there is the same sense that something is going to go wrong when an ex crashes on the couch of a husband and wife. In this case, the anxiety of the audience is fulfilled and it’s even more intense than expected.
This sense of unpredictability bodes well with Easy, and helps once again to ground it in reality, as does the incredible cast. A few standout performances include Aya Cash with a more nuanced take on an “uptight” mother-to-be, Jane Adams as a charismatic and lonely woman, and Aislinn Derbez as a conflicted wife. These well-crafted characters and the specific quiet humor of it all make this show Easy to start a relationship with.
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor