WOW… I MUST HAVE HALF THE BEACH IN MY VAGINA
It’s funny how as you grow older you suddenly begin to realise all the things you’ve been told all your life are true. I used to think my parents were so uncool and weird for saying things like “Technology sure has changed since our day”, and the mere fact they couldn’t work the Sky Remote infuriated me. And yet here I am at the age of twenty-five suddenly discovering myself being astounded at the change of technology since my day, whenever the hell “my day” was!
If you had told me in 1995 that twenty years from now we would all be watching films online, and be able to access them from websites on our phones, little tablets that we carried around and from computers then I would have looked at the VHS copy of “Sister Act” in my hands and wondered if it was worth me every keeping it. The answer is no. Because now I can log onto my Netflix account and watch “Sister Act” whenever I want, as well as thousands of other films. And I don’t have to grab a giant videotape, slide it carefully into the machine so it doesn’t get jammed, wait half an hour for the video machine to realise what was going on and actually work. I spent a good part of my teenage years building up a collection of over 800 DVDs and now even they are becoming obsolete.
Netflix is a magnificent thing. I was sceptical of it at first, but so were many of us with Facebook and now look at the world. The website, the company, the whatever it is is now available on every platform known to man in order to let anyone who subscribes to watch whatever they want wherever they want. And now Netflix are creating their own shows. A few months ago I had a massive two day marathon where I binge watched their brilliantly funny “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” show. And two days ago they released their brand new offering, a dramedy called “Grace and Frankie“.
To put it simply, the show tells the story of Grace (an uptight, does-everything-by-the-book seventy year old woman) and Frankie (a carefree, pot-smoking bohemian woman) who’s septuagenarian husbands leave them for each other. So this is basically a kind of “Will and Grace” for the elderly. But it is actually so much more…
The four main stars of this show are all… Oh damn, I wanted to say OSCAR nominees… Dammit Martin Sheen! Three of the four main stars of this show are all OSCAR nominees. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Sam Waterston give this show major clout and I am amazed that such big names have signed onto a show that is produced by Netflix. They are still very much an infant in terms of television production, and yet I doubt very much the likes of NBC would manage to bag such A-List actors to star in a television show. But they managed it, and thank goodness because in the wrong hands this scenario could end up farcical – but it doesn’t here.
This show has as much warmth and heart as it does laughs. With every laugh out loud moment, there is a heartwarming moment to go hand-in-hand with it, to remind us this is life and things like this happen. The story itself is very relevant and very modern, with the basis of the men’s revelation being the fact they are able to now marry and therefore want to do so. But the heartbreak they have caused the two women, at this stage in their lives, is very much apparent and beautifully acted by Fonda and Tomlin. The women’s reaction to the news is the same – anger and shock, but the way they deal with it is completely different. The shows creators make a huge effort to show the contrast between the two women and as an audience I think we realise this is because eventually they will overcome their differences and become the best of friends.
The first scene I watched that made me realise how much I was going to enjoy this show comes seven minutes into the episode. Grace (Jane Fonda) is sitting at her vanity table looking at herself (directly down the camera) in the mirror. She proceeds to rip off her false eyelashes, tear out the fake hairpieces from the back of her head and remove the plugs that have been pulling her lose skin back behind her head. In essence she is removing everything she does to try and look pretty for the man who has now turned around and said he is leaving her for a man after forty years of marriage. And you can see it in her eyes, in her performance, that she is struggling to come to terms with this – not the revelation, but the fact that the hairpieces and the eyelashes are all worthless now.
A few years ago I remember seeing photographs of Jane Fonda in a wheelchair with the caption “NOT LONG LEFT”. I can’t even remember why she was in a wheelchair, but for some reason I believed the headline – I definitely thought she should be dead by now. If not because of that headline, but because of those “I’m 68, not bad huh?” L’Oreal Age Reperfect adverts she did… After some quick research I discovered that the wheelchair use back in 2009 was purely because of knee and back operations – and yet somehow the makers of “Grace and Frankie” take delight in watching Ms. Fonda trying to navigate stairs…
It sounds ridiculous but the only flaw I found in this show is the battle of Jane Fonda’s joints Vs. staircases and trying to stand up. It stuck out for me so much. Scenes with her trying to stand up from sitting on the beach, scenes with her taking one step down a flight of stairs then it cuts to her at the bottom… Probably because it took her half an hour to get there.
Frankie (Lily Tomlin) deals with the situation completely differently to Grace, and yet with all the same emotions. Where Frankie invites her children to the house to discuss what has happened, Grace refuses to see the children and tries to cancel their plans. Frankie goes to the local corner store and buys ice cream and cigarettes, Grace goes to the supermarket to buy beauty products. The actresses are completely suited to their roles. Their versatility means they easily could have played the opposite characters, but they absolutely fit their roles and it’s perfect. Lily is given the character of hilarious neurotic with all the off-the-wall lines. Jane is given the character of the uptight straight laced scorned woman who does the things you won’t expect her to.
Inevitably the two women for a bond, small to say the least, but a bond that is bound to grow throughout the remaining episodes of the first season of what promises to be a major hit for Netflix. The women find solace in each other at their shared beach house. It upsets me that they had to take drugs to discover their like for each other, but nonetheless it’s a touching moment that will make you smile when the two find each other and find themselves on the beach. Frankie manages to release the best line of the entire episode – “Wow… I must have half the beach in my vagina” before the women come together for the final scene.
Much like the scene where Grace is stripping away all that makes her beautiful in the mirror, the final scene has the same tone as the women both seem to stare directly at the camera (though they are in actual fact gazing out the window). They sit down as the camera slowly pans in closer to them, they laugh, they sigh, and then Grace asks “Now what?” And as a viewer this is exactly what I want to know as well, which means I will watch the next ten episodes of the show because I have become intrigued and invested in these characters – well done writers! I have been stunned by the realism portrayed in these characters, not just the leading ladies and their heartbreak, but the leading men and the war they internally battle between feeling guilty and yet feeling relieved and happy to not have to live a lie anymore – well done actors! And I just hope this show finds its audience. I am a twenty five year old male and I found this show enchanting, but I doubt I am the demographic the show’s creators were looking for. I guess only time will tell.