Nicholas Stoller and Francesca Delbanco deliver a star-studded knockout with their newest addition to Netflix’s already strong lineup of original comedies.
Friends From College kicks off with the move of Ethan (Keegan Michael Key) and Lisa (Cobie Smulders) to New York City, drawing their old group of college friends (Annie Parisse, Nat Faxon, Fred Savage, and Jae Suh Park) back together. The reunion, however, is marked by an increasingly complicated series of relationships between the characters, including an affair—one of the central plot lines—that simmers in the background threatening to boil over. We screened the first two episodes last Monday at AMC Loews 34th Street.
Key, who shines in a role that allows him to balance humor with more of his dramatic side, predictably dominates the ensemble in screen time, and is the closest thing the show has to a protagonist. This does not, however, come at the cost of the other actors.
For the most part, the writers excelled at the difficult task of economizing, of giving the titular friends from college, and a couple of supporting characters, the necessary time to develop respective to their roles. Stoller and Delbanco achieved this in part by using character tropes in a positive way. Because Marianne (Park), the artsy one, and Nick (Faxon), the one with the trust fund, are versions of characters we already know, the show does not have to linger for the audience to pick up on them.
While we may recognize the characters in question, however, Stoller and Delbanco steer them from becoming cliché. Faxon’s character, for example, is tinged with a layer of regret that will surely be explored more fully as the season continues.
Stoller, a veteran filmmaker, helming projects like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and Neighbors, achieved in Friends From College a cinematic quality often absent in television. The show, filmed on location, will likely visit some iconic New York landmarks, and indeed the first episodes contained a beautiful shot of Park Avenue late at night, steam pouring out from under the street, the MetLife building rising in the distance. And then the second episode featured a hilarious trip to Jekyll and Hyde Club, which I hesitate to call iconic, but it’s certainly something.
A smartly written exploration of love, friendship, and nostalgia after forty, Friends From College will charm the pants off of any fan of Stoller and his films.
All episodes of ‘Friends From College’ will be available on Netflix on July 14th
Photo courtesy of IMDB