Modern Love Review: Amazon Anthology Brings Popular New York Times Column to Life

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To quote Jerry McGuire, we live in a cynical, cynical world.

It's that never-ceasing cynicism that can lead to a yearning for something bright, a little upbeat.

Amazon's anthology series, Modern Love, based on the New York Time's column of the same name (that turns 15 this month), reminds us that no matter how rueful things look, there is love in the air. You just have to be open to it.

Modern Love Poster

Yes, it's a drippy sentiment oozing with sugar, but Modern Love isn't a sappy series.

Instead, the heartfelt essays adapted from page to screen showcase what love can be when you open yourself to the possibilities. It's sweet without being cloyingly so.

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And if all this talk of romantic love is getting you down already, buck up! Modern Love isn't about any one specific type of love, but it's telling love stories nonetheless in all of their complicated glory.

Walking In the Rain

With the rise of the comic movies, love stories, like many other mainline releases, have taken a back seat. It's even rarer to discover a well-done exploration of love on television, so Modern Love hits all the right notes.

It's made for snuggling on the couch on a brisk autumn day while letting your dreams carry you away.

Episode 1, “When the Doorman Is Your Main Man," is written and directed by John Carney who writes and directs five of the eight episodes.

It features a young woman named Maggie (Cristin Miloti) struggling with her love life and the doorman named Gusmin (Laurentiu Possa) who offers her unsolicited advice on all of her paramours.

A Unique Friendship

When Maggie becomes pregnant, she realizes that Guzmin might be the closest thing to a loving relationship she has in her life.

It's not romantic love, but the way Guzmin cares for Maggie is love nonetheless. He offers her advice and understanding unlike anyone else in her life.

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It's not easy to identify with Miloti's character, but this is a personal reflection of a real relationship, and drives home the modernity of the love within this anthology.

A Journalist and Her Interviewee

We'll all experience it differently, and what suits one will not suit another. That's why love is special.

Episode 2, When Cupid is a Prying Journalist," features a New York Times journalist named Julie (Catherine Keener) interviewing a young techie named Joshua who has created a dating app (Dev Patel).

Through their conversations, Keener's character no only urges the programmer not to miss out on love when its right before his eyes, but reconnects with an old flame (Andy Garcia) to tamper the fire so she can better relate to her husband.

A Rainy Day in New York

Caitlin McGee (Bluff City Law) also stars as the woman Joshua cannot get out of his mind and is encouraged to pursue lest he lives a life of regret letting "the one" get away.

As someone who has lived with regret based on choices made decades ago, this one hit home.

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If anyone who can still redirect their relationships before it's too late, it's a valuable piece of information to have. Almost as valuable as the lesson of letting go of regret and embracing what's right in front of you.

A Stroll in the City

Modern Love Episode 3 Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am," stars Anne Hathaway as a bipolar woman who, much like Rebecca Bunch in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, rides her highs as if she's in a musical while struggling with her lows by keeping her condition to herself.

When she meets Jeff (Gary Carr), Lexi grapples with allowing someone into her rollercoaster existence.

It's one of the darker episodes of the anthology, but Hathaway's shown her range with films on far sides of the spectrum including Ella Enchanted and Rachel's Getting married.

A Chance Encounter at the Grocery Store

If love stories are not often told on television, then you can increase that exponentially for people who don't fit into societal norms.

Modern Love features stories with many people who, although living a sweet life in the city, don't often feel connected despite the mobs of people around them.

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"Rallying to Keep the Game," is the fourth episode starring Tina Fey and John Slattery as a long-married couple who has hit the skids.

It's one volley at a time for them to find their way back to each other as their weekly tennis matches prove more beneficial than their arguments on the court let on.

Marriage on the Rocks

The two stars share similar sensibilities and watching them put their couple though the paces feels right out of a classic Woody Allen movie. Love him or hate him, his films have always been New York-centric and often feature unique love stories.

Sharon Horgan writes and directs this installment, and if you're a fan of Catastrophe, you'll find even more to like about "Rallying to Keep the Game."

Two strangers find a connection on Episode 5, "At the Hosptial, an Interlude of Clarity," written and directed by Tom Hall.

John Gallagher, Jr., stars as Rob, a man stood up by his date only to find something much more meaningful with a random stranger, Yasmine (Sofia Boutella).

An Unlikely Scenario

Their first date takes a surprising turn when, in his desire to impress Yasmine, Rob falls onto a wine glass requiring a trip to the emergency room.

Their relationship blossoms during an incredibly tense situation that blows the cover off of expectations and first impressions.

Recent Emmy winner Julia Garner stars as a young woman named Maddy who falls for her boss in a significantly different way than he falls for her on Episode 6, "So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?" written by Audrey Wells and directed by Emmy Rossum.

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Homecoming's Shae Whigham misunderstands Maddy's intentions leading them into even more Woody Allen territory in this May/December romance.

A May December Thing

Like Allen's earlier works, Modern Love is as much a love letter to New York City as it is a sendup of the many different facets of love people share.

It's beautifully filmed, and thematically, although each episode comes from different perspectives, writers, and directors, ties together so that it feels more cohesive than you'd expect.

New York is as much a star of this series as the actors themselves, and while much of it features the New York we fantasize about, Episode 7, "Hers Was a World of One," reminds us that not everybody living in New York is living the dream, at least not our dream.

Fleabag's Andrew Scott and Brandon Kyle Goodman star as a couple yearning to adopt. Their hopes get dashed left and right until they meet Karla (Olivia Cooke) who gets their hopes up and approves of them before they realize the significance of it.

A Thoroughly Modern Family

Karla is a homeless woman who feels free living on the streets, and as the upper-class existence of Tobin and Andy clashes with a lifestyle for which they don't have any understanding, a new family begins far from the traditional.

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And finally, Episode 8, "The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap," features Jane Alexander and James Saito finding love in their advanced years after suffering great loss.

It's a match born of similar interests and shared grief that proves you're never too late to find love again.

Love Never Stops

The final episode of the season also cleverly offers something for everyone who has watched the series in its entirety that shouldn't be missed.

Every performance throughout Modern Love stands out for different reasons, and each story inspires while opening a window to the soul of the person who experienced it.

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An exploration of love like this reminds us to be more aware of our relationships. Yes, sometimes the love is over the top and the city beams with light more powerful than you'll ever experience, but detouring from the cynicism even for a few hours is refreshing.

Modern Love is charming and visually striking. Take off your blinders, and get a little romantic this weekend. 

Modern Love drops on Amazon Prime Video Friday, October 18.


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Editor Rating: 4.75 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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