Review of Netflix’s Easy

On September 22, Netflix released a revolutionary new anthology-style show called Easy, written and directed by Joe Swanberg. Formatted in eight episodes, each one watches like a miniature film, a twenty-minute snapshot into the lives of “typical” Chicagoans. The series incorporates a flow of characters that are the focus of one single episode and appear earlier or later in the show, creating a vast network of relationships and links that echo the nuances of real, unimprovised life. In fact, Swanberg uses an outline-based technique for most of his works, leaving the specific dialogue up to the actors. This method creates a casual, relatable atmosphere that seems as though the audience is watching in real time, without cameras or crews.

The technique has a dual function. Life is unglamorous, and is depicted as so in Easy, but to a point where some might feel bored or unentertained. This is not a Gossip Girl type show where characters are meticulously groomed before each sequence; the actors in Easy appear completely organically, as though people wandered on screen from the street. There is barely any context for each episode, but it works; the stories dive immediately in, panning across crowded concerts, exposed legs, and eclectic apartments. It’s like spending twenty-odd minutes catching a rare glimpse into a stranger’s life, learning about their quirks, their jobs, their hobbies, or their relationships. Easy generally focuses on love, sometimes reduced to sex, and how it functions in life. It can take a backseat, acting as a simple addition rather than the core of the story; it can appear in familial, brotherly love, or in married couples seeking some spice.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Swanberg spoke about the filming process and its snapshot form, and how he had “never felt as constantly invigorated throughout a production.” Indeed, the energy and fast pace is tangible as actors fall quickly into roles that they’ve helped to create. The spontaneity makes real, human connections. “In a dream scenario, they [the actors] connect very strongly with the character and they’re willing to bring a lot of their own life and experience to the character,” Swanberg said. His collaboration with the actors breathes life into stories that might seem too “normal” on the surface.

The nonlinear construction of the series (meaning that episodes can be watched separately, without any context) and the varied focus on love, makes it believable. Love doesn’t appear as a fairytale ending in each snapshot. The show depicts it as messy, hurting, spontaneous, beautiful, and complicated: in short, as love presents itself in real life. It’s refreshing to delve into these crafted worlds, each boasting their own intricacies and nuances that truly mimic life. For those wishing to watch the glamorous fabrication of life with painfully perfect characters, Easy might not appeal. It’s gritty in a relaxed sort of way, creating intimacy between the actors and the audience. Recommended for your next Netflix and Chill or as a quick study break, though maybe not in public (lots of nudity included).

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