Love Life Review: Anna Kendrick Glows in New HBO Max Series

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Despite all of the excitement about new streaming services, nobody but Apple TV+ rolled out with a relatively full slate of originals.

Well, it's HBO's turn to move full streamer with the release of HBO Max, and the only original scripted series for adults launching with the service is Love Life.

It's not clear why this was the series chosen to lure eyes to the netlet, but it could have something to do with the appeal of the series lead, Anna Kendrick.

Love Life Karaoke Tall

Kendrick stars on Love Life as a young woman named Darby, and the series follows her as she navigates relationship woes and maintains friendships while trying to establish her career.

I've read some of the early reviews, and they're not kind. There is a lot of talk about there being nothing new here, and all of that other jazz critics are keen to talk about.

But that's what I like about Love Life. It's comfortable and feels realistic. The odds are, especially if you're a woman, you'll recognize at least some of your relationship gaffs in Darby's exploits.

Whether it's worrying that someone will call after a hookup or struggling with multiple breakups, Darby represents everyone at some point or another. That's what makes her appealing.

Roof Party

It's pretty rare these days to watch a series that sets young people in New York City who don't live in the swanky apartment or do things that you could never dream of doing.

Even the friends on HBO's Girls often lived beyond their means in apartments that were large enough for many but lived in by a few.

Darby and her friends share an apartment because the rent in NYC is exorbitant. They're all over each other in terms of space and turmoil. They share their greatest achievements and their lowest moments.

They all have jobs and seem to be upwardly mobile. They have goals and aspirations, but a lot of the time, their egos and belief that there is something better around the corner gets in their way of long-lasting happiness -- whatever that might be.

Waiting for the Train

Kendrick fits the role of a young woman searching for herself and the perfect relationship with ease. She ensures that Darby is lovable even when she's not at her best.

And even though many of the relationship tropes Darby flirts with are ridiculously recognizable, it's still not easy to imagine being the supportive friend for someone spiraling in and out of the dating pool.

It can be downright exhausting lifting up someone who doesn't recognize their value and chooses boyfriends unwisely. But best friends Sara and Mallory (Zoë Chao and Sasha Compère) give as good as they get.

Sara, especially, gives Darby a run for the money as the second most well-developed character in Love Life Season 1. Chao's resume is relatively light, but her stand-out performance here should change that.

Roommates and Friends

Of course, there are the boyfriends, too. Like many young women, Darby puts a lot of weight on having a man in her life. And that's probably my biggest issue with the series.

Love Life is expected to be an anthology that will follow one central character through their first love to their lasting love. That means that many other areas of Darby's world aren't given the same attention as her love life.

And since there's a steady stream of men coming and going during the short ten-episode season (of which I've seen seven), I can attest they're not nearly as exciting as her friends, her family, and her job in the art world.

Hope Davis and James LeGros play her parents, and Darby's connection with her mom could have been the basis for the entire series. As it stands, Darby's mom does plenty of damage to her ego so that she has someone to blame when things inevitably fall apart with one man or the next.

The Hot Boss

Following Darby as a caring friend and a daughter is just a more interesting prospect than her love life, but if shipping culture tells us anything, love is always a draw.

And it could be argued that the loves of our lives that define us in ways we'd never imagine since we make so many accommodations for varying interests in the hope that doing so will keep us closer to those we love.

The series sets out relatively fast that you can't plan where love will take you when a voiceover assures us that Darby will find love, just not in the way she imagined.

I'm interested enough after seven episodes to see where her story leads, and I think you will be, too.

Other notable roles within the series include Peter Vack as Sara's boyfriend and Scoot McNairy as one of her employers, named Bradley.

The Hot Boss

Love Life rests assuredly on Kendrick's shoulders, and fans of her work won't be let down by the first season of this HBO Max anthology. It's my guess that more people will like Love Life than not, especially at a time when we're starved for normalcy in a very abnormal time.

Love Life is about normal people with normal problems trying to achieve normal dreams.

Whether it's love, friendship, her career, or her dreams, Darby lives a normal life. You'll recognize yourself in her story, and that makes her success your success, and that's worth the investment.

Love Life was created by Sam Boyd, who shares co-showrunner responsibilities with Bridget Bedard. Executive producers include Kendrick, Paul Fieg, and Dan Magnente.

Love Live premieres on HBO Max on Wednesday, May 27.

Review

Editor Rating: 3.5 / 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, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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