5 reasons why 'Casual' is a much-needed reality check for today's saccharine romcoms
In times when love is just about a cute girl and a handsome boy getting laid, 'Casual' tells you love is one heck of a mess that needs some attention.
When it comes to romantic comedies in Hollywood, it is all about how the perfect looking girl meets the perfect looking boy and their relationship reaches its peak at some train station, college or airport. To top it all up there is always one other character who is just as significant as the perfect boy and girl- the perfect city of New York. Every romcom that Hollywood has ever tried selling to its audience has carefully left out the naked realities of life and filled them up with a couple of cliched boyband songs.
It doesn't make sense. None of the yellow summer dresses, the sharp tuxedos, or the overtly supportive best friend can depict what a mess a real-life relationship can be like. First of all, it's never a cake-walk and second of all, it just might not end on a good note. But then it has always been a part of your life, and you just learn to live with/without it. That is what Hulu's series 'Casual' tells us about when it comes to relationships. Set in the present time, it deals with characters who are necessarily bad, regrettable and do not have their lives figured out...not even when they are 40. But they are trying to get by every single day, and that is what life is- the horrible, careless, people like you and me trying to do everything possible to get our lives back on track, and maybe look for some support in the form of love.
So forget about the banality of love when it comes to Hollywood romcoms. Here are five reasons why 'Casual' is a much-needed reality check for today's saccharine romcoms:
1. The cute wacky girl next door is not real
Remember all the actresses like Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Katherine Heigl, Emma Stone, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, and Meg Ryan, and their goody little characters who were more than modern-day princesses trying to get rescued by possibly any stranger that they come across? Well, hasn't that always been the story when it comes to films like 'He's Just Not That Into You', 'Valentine's Day', '27 Dresses', and more? Thank God for 'Casual'.
Apart from being a story set very much in our times, and the subtle contemplation of contemporary trends, 'Casual' gives women the opportunity to look at themselves not as a girl looking for love but as a girl who treats love as a part of her life. First of all, Valerie certainly does not fit into the league of the legally blonde, cute, over-compensating female characters who have done nothing but lament about being single. Yes, Valerie laments too. But that only follows a crisis where she is left stranded with her coming-of-age daughter after a divorce and has to move in with her brother. Valerie too checks on her options but her character has a line finely drawn between what could be a one-night stand and a prospect of love. She is not looking around to be rescued, in fact, she is just trying to fit into the world after parting ways with someone who has shared more than half of her life with her.
Similarly, while Laura's age expects her to do all the trashy, drunken night mistakes, which the otherwise celebrated rom-com heroine would do, she is incredibly considerate and understanding when it comes to how life works. She probably has disputes with her mother, and the two don't get along very well. But at the same time, she takes charge of her own things and is not ashamed of who she is. With 'Casual' the lead female roles are almost like the mirror reflection of the living woman, who is frustrated and would love to explore her options without selling herself too much.
2. The hunky handsome man is a myth
If nothing else then the one way to tell if a rom-com is actually a piece of waste is the mythical handsome man who saves the lady. By now, we all 20 somethings know that such men do not exist, men like Edward from 'Pretty Woman' or Sam from 'Sleepless in Seattle' do not exist. You cannot really expect a man to drive to your doorway in a limo and then drop that ring on your lap. It doesn't happen that way!
In fact, men in real life are a lot like Alex. Yes they are cute, but they are annoying. They are lazy, selfish, confused, complicated, and above all broke. Yeah, guess what the men are not really as strong as they show, they need someone to love too. Alex might get all the girls but when it comes to Rae, he is trying. And that's what a real man does. As Alex says in Season 4 that he has finally got his life together and has been trying to make things work with Rae and Carrie, everyone tries to make things work out in their lives. You don't hope to be picked by a man, spend the night with him, and bang! By morning you guys are totally into it. No. By morning you probably want to run from his stench.
But when the right time comes along and you sort of decide upon taking your life in your own hands, like Alex did, you settle and become a more accepting person. Think about the Alex in Season 1. He had no motto in his life other than getting laid, to put it simply. And that is exactly how we are when we are young. But as the years went by, Alex became a more calm person, a dedicated father, and a caring friend. Maybe someday we young people do begin to see the whole point of it.
3. Less about what you need than what you want
Let's face it. Every rom-com has probably tried to shove it down your throat that, "Girl, you NEED a guy!" Truth is, girls don't need guys nor do guys need girls. At the end of the day, it is more about what you want than what you need.
It wasn't an absolute necessity for Valerie to go out for casual dating. She did it because she wanted to get back into the world. Her life didn't revolve around it, it was just something she wanted to try out to take her mind off her fallen marriage. Although these things often make us do some very stupid things yet at the end of the day they finally make us what we are. Probably Valerie in Season 4 wouldn't have been the independent, free-willed woman had she not been the broken, vulnerable girl in the previous seasons. Maybe things for her would have taken a stroll downtown had she not dated all the options and just stuck to one for a sense of security.
And that is where 'Casual' strikes the chord. It makes you realize that all you need is some time, and all you want is some more time.
4. Goodbye New York City
The only other character without whom a rom-com can never be one, other than the glittering girl and the bodacious boy, is New York City. Every other romance flick has to be set in NYC, sometimes probably just so the narrator can say the phrase: "in a city that never sleeps..." Fortunately, we do not have to watch any couple sit at a Manhattan restaurant and discuss their sex life.
Valerie, Alex, and Laura seem to be doing quite well in their quiet neighborhood of Los Angeles. It is always a bliss to watch any story set against New York. Of course, the city can make for some amazing frames, beautiful shots, and great local structures. But too much of anything can lead to boredom and that is exactly what happened with the films being set in NYC. You almost begin to get a delusional idea of the city. Since 'Casual' is set against LA and not NYC, probably that is the reason why there is a tremendous focus on the characters rather than the city at large. LA does play a significant role in the series, its silent mid-summer mood serves almost as a catalyst to the story.
However, LA does not have the frantic, hostile show which New York does. Any film or show set in that city has to devote a particular time of their screenplay to the city-scape. Fortunately, LA does not demand that. It gives ample space to its characters. Take for an instance, the 2006 movie 'The Holiday' which was partly set in LA saw Kate Winslet's steady transformation inside a single house rather than bustling around the crowded streets of New York.
5. When the puzzle doesn't fit you look inside the box, or spin the table
'Casual' has always given us a little advice on life here and there. And personally, one of its most precious bits of advice to its viewers so far would be "If the puzzle doesn't fit, you spin the table." That's it, right? A piece doesn't fit a particular corner of the table even when it is a part of the table, you spin the table until you find the right place.
Romantic flicks are always about two things- satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Not that it's wrong, it's just incomplete. Of course, every love story is either satisfied or dissatisfied, but a perfect love story is more about being satisfied with the dissatisfied. Sometimes, Edward might not agree with what Vivian is saying, or maybe Sam and Annie just had a fling and nothing more. But that doesn't mean everything that you felt was wrong. Valerie doesn't dispose of her dates because they smell bad or look weird. She considers the person more than the look, and chances are you would actually like that person- with all their flaws, their disguises, their laziness, their inadequacies, but you live with it. Because being with someone does not involve the perfect home or the perfect car or the dog, it is just about being with the person.
And when that doesn't work out, you try to bend down and fix it...or maybe start from the scratch.