Love isn’t your typical rom-com.
In fact, it’s more like the anti-rom-com, rallying against the deluge of cutesy sweetness to reveal a more authentic and digestible story. Rather than the two main early 30-something characters Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) having a predictable and boring “meet cute” or be enemies-turned-lovers, they are simply two hungover strangers who meet at a convenience store.
Mickey has lost her wallet and begins yelling at the clerk about the injustice of not being able to pay them later when she “comes here all the time”, leaving her on the verge of stealing her pick me up coffee. To quell the situation, nice guy Gus offers to pay for the coffee, to which Mickey tacks on a pack of Parliaments, and so begins the tumultuous ballad of Gus and Mickey.
This meeting doesn’t happen in the first scene, but rather in the last thirty seconds of the first episode. That’s a pretty ballsy move for any show with “love” in the title, let alone as its standalone title. But would we really expect anything less from a show that is created, written, and produced by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin (who previously wrote for Girls and Awkward), and Paul Rust?
But that’s what makes Love so great and, frankly, so refreshing. The way Gus and Mickey meet is far more similar to the average, real life couple: the randomness, the fact that if Gus had walked in just five minutes later, they might never have met. Having the show grounded in this way makes the characters far more relatable and feel more genuine.
While traditional rom-coms are heavily plot-driven with contrived, played out concepts to heighten tension, Love is largely character-driven. It’s less about where the characters are going and what they’re doing, but rather how they navigate these situations. Each has their own baggage and hang-ups that influence how they handle day-to-day life and interact with the people around them. Even something as simple as driving around L.A. looking for Mickey’s wallet and grabbing food can reveal deep insight to who these characters are.
But this revelation is particularly true and interesting when we see how these two handle the same exact situation completely differently. Like when Mickey gets drunk after yelling at her two exes simultaneously while avoiding talking to anyone else at her best friend’s party. Meanwhile, Gus, who doesn’t know anybody, becomes the life of the party after leading a jam session and flirting with a pretty blonde stranger.
Mickey is impulsive with a history of self-destructive decisions that she’s trying to curb. Gus is a self-proclaimed goof ball who isn’t the best in social situations, but eventually find his own way. But they both have an acerbic sense of humor, which is what bonds them immediately.
So we spend the other 39 minutes of the first episode (and much of the other episodes) getting to know Gus and Mickey as individuals, as just two people recovering from recently failed relationships (each unhealthy in their own way) wanting love, not because they’re anxious to settle down to meet some arbitrary societal expectation but because they simply want to stave off that all too familiar feeling—loneliness. We see them at work and hanging out with friends (in Gus’ case) and roommates (in Mickey’s case). Each episode reveals a new, hidden layer of each’s neuroses and personality. Sometimes raising red flags that these two people shouldn’t be together, and other times leaving us wanting to see their lives intertwined faster.
And isn’t that what love is really all about? Two strangers managing to find each other in this chaotic world? To Gus and Mickey, love isn’t easy or neat. It’s messy and complicated. It’s about overcoming obstacles and managing expectations. It’s about making sacrifices to make the other person happy in hopes that seeing them happy will make you happy. In the end, Love makes you feel like you’re managing your own complicated love life just as well as anyone else.
One final note: When it comes to anything Netflix, bingeing is second nature, but Love was made for it as each episode takes off almost exactly where the last one left off.