Do you miss girl comedies that are smart, funny and are entertaining without showing the newest It bag or latest four inch heel? Was there ever one that even existed? If you’re in the mood for a whip smart comedy with balls, then you need to check out HBO’s new dramedy Girls – from writer/star Lena Dunham and executive producer Judd Apatow. And judging by the first three episodes, it’s going to be a huge hit.
The new HBO dramedy Girls follows the lives of twentysomething girls living in New York City and the struggles they face with their careers, sex and the angst of trying to find yourself. It’s written by newcomer Lena Dunham, and having viewed the first three episodes, the script is so whip smart, bold and perverse you have to wonder if Dunham is really sporting a pair of balls between her legs. To say this gal has some mad writing skills would be an understatement. The dialogue and scenes played by Dunham’s character Hannah Horvath is downright hysterical and honest. This girl has chops. Not only does she play the main character, she writes the show, directs it, and is an executive producer alongside Judd Apatow—who needs to be applauded for staying on the girl comedy bandwagon (hello, Bridesmaids)—and Jenni Konner.
The show is a huge undertaking for a woman of 25, and a somewhat risk for HBO. But it’s also a testament to the network’s courage to push the envelope and stay ahead of the curve on what’s cool, trendy and, more importantly, relevant in pop culture. This is the real life of sex in the city.
Dunham’s unabashed take on growing up after college life is one that is relatable, but which is almost never talked about for women. In the first episode, things kick off with Dunham’s Hannah wolfing down a meal with her parents in a fancy restaurant. But things take a turn for Hannah when her parents, or more so her mother, tell her that she is cut off financially from them. Things unravel further when she tells her boss at her internship that after a year of service she needs to be paid. He thanks her for her service and sends her on her way. Jobless, she goes home and seeks the support of her roommate Marnie (Allison Williams) and her Brit friend Jessa (Jemima Kirk) who, with having their own problems to deal with, offer little advice.
Hannah does have a boy toy through which she can release stress. His name is Adam (Adam Driver) – an eccentric actor whose own grandmother supplements his income. But Adam only serves the story when he and Hannah are in bed. Which leads to Girls’ take on graphic sex scenes. The wild scenes themselves are so jaw-dropping that Girls goes where TV seldom has to nerve to go from a woman’s point of view. And it’s not just about the actual sex scenes that Dunham performs that are shocking, it’s the dialogue that goes along with them, before and after. Adam has no problem humiliating Hannah; say by grabbing hold of her belly fat and jiggling it up and down whilst making mocking sounds. Another thing that’s so great about Dunham is that although she doesn’t have a supermodel’s body, she’s not afraid to flaunt what she’s got. These scenes are purely for the sake of “sextaposition.”
“The kind of sex scenes I do, I would not do if I was not directing and producing them,” Dunham told The Guardian. “If there was a 50-year-old male director who was saying come in, take your clothes off, do a doggy-style sex scene, I would be the most annoying actress in the world. I would have a lot of fucking questions.”
Not having a “perfect” body doesn’t seem to bother Dunham, but her weight has been the topic of debate and discussion. While in Ohio in University, she filmed herself climbing into fountain wearing a bikini, pretending to shower and clean her teeth, before being asked to move along by a security guard. Wanting to share the joke with friends, Dunham put the video on YouTube and while on vacation with her parents, woke up to find out that it went viral. “The worst thing was not the debate about whether I was fat; it was that I didn’t think it was a good video. It was like, this is not how I want to emerge to the world. This was just for my friends,” she told The Guardian. Instead, she made it into a movie.
For Girls, Dunham stresses that she’s not intending to make any kind of political statement but just wants to tell it like it is. “I appreciate anything that can bring focus to the fact that the female norm in film and television is not the norm in real life, and that ultimately it’s a destructive ideal to aspire to. I’m glad if my work can make a difference. But when I’m making it, there’s never a kind of fuck-you, look-at-my-body moment. It’s not where I’m coming from. My characters are self-conscious about their bodies, but – I don’t know how to phrase this without sounding like a gender-women’s-studies disaster – I think women in this culture are reduced to their bodies in a way that can feel very imprisoning. What I think about my characters in Girls is that they have a lot of issues. But none of those issues really comes from being 10 pounds overweight.”
Recognizing her talent, Judd Apatow, king of comedy, immediately took her under his wing. “She’s just such a great writer and director,” Apatow told The Hollywood Reporter of his new protégé. “A lot of our discussion is just about how to structure the show so it can last many years. How do you tell a story in a half an hour versus two hours? And I also felt like because it’s HBO, it would be important that the show be really funny in addition to being very truthful, and to figure out what the balance of that was.”
Meet the girls of Girls
Hannah is a unique mixture of self-entitlement and self-loathing. She believes she has the talent to be a successful writer, but forgets she has to write first. She wants to have a boyfriend without the obligations of a relationship, and a job without having to work. She’s ultimately good-natured, with a spirited sense of humour. But every time she is about to improve her circumstances, her cluelessness undercuts her.
Hannah’s roommate and best friend is a Type A personality with strict rules about friendship. She seems like Hannah’s opposite because she’s got a job and a serious boyfriend. But while she’s more together on the surface, her unwillingness to admit how lost she is may mean that she’s the most lost.
Jessa is a live-and-let-live bohemian who’s allergic to anything she views as bourgeois. She wants a life less ordinary and has travelled extensively. She’s had lots of different jobs and lots of boyfriends, but her apparent lack of fear belies her own kind of insecurity. Jessa is apt to put crazy ideas in Hannah’s head that are easier for a gorgeous British girl to pull off than they are for anxious Hannah.
Jessa’s roommate and cousin aspires to the “Sex and the City” lifestyle. She’s an NYU student obsessed with “women’s issues,” gluten-free foods and sexcentric self-help. The others tend to underestimate her because she’s suburban and innocent, but Shoshanna can be a surprisingly incisive source of wisdom.
Girls premieres Sunday, April 15 at 10:30 pm on HBO Canada.