Fleishman Is In Trouble TV Review

Plot: The story of recently divorced 41-year-old Toby Fleishman, who dives into the brave new world of app-based dating with the kind of success he never had dating in his youth, before he got married at the tail end of medical school. But just at the start of his first summer of sexual freedom, his ex-wife, Rachel, disappears, leaving him with 11-year-old Hannah and 9-year-old Solly and no hint of where she is or whether she plans to return. As he balances parenting, the return of old friends Libby and Seth, a potential promotion at the hospital that is a long time coming — and all the eligible women that Manhattan has to offer — he realizes that he’ll never be able to figure out what happened to Rachel until he can finally face what happened to their marriage in the first place.

Review: Jesse Eisenberg is an actor whose mannerisms and speech have always felt ripped directly from a Woody Allen movie. From Zombieland to The Social Network and even Batman v Superman, Eisenberg has been adept at playing characters who embody his signature delivery. While Eisenberg has worked with Woody before (see 2016’s Cafe Society), his nebbish demeanor was not nearly utilized the way that it could have been in that film. Fleishman Is In Trouble is the 21st-century equivalent of a classic Woody Allen comedy but one rooted in the ideas of marriage, divorce, dating, and modern New York life. With witty voice-over narration and a very timely look at dating while in your 40s, Fleishman Is In Trouble combines humor with a mystery that digs into the very nature of relationships and what it means to be both a parent and a spouse. It is also an unexpectedly welcome satire of modern American life.

The eight-episode limited series (all of which were made available for this review) follows newly divorced Toby Fleishman (Eisenberg), a hepatologist who makes good money working at a New York hospital. With an acrimonious split from his wife Rachel (Claire Danes) creating a rift between Toby and his son and daughter, he finds solace in the dozens of women who suddenly find him attractive as a newly eligible bachelor. Toby also reconnects with his college friends Seth (Adam Brody) and Libby (Lizzy Caplan). The trio reminisces on their college days having traveled together to Israel and supporting each other when Rachel disappears, leaving Toby to serve as the primary caregiver for his children. As the series progresses, Toby begins to face the traumatic reality that the collapse of his marriage has done to him while also trying to figure out what happened to his ex-wife.

Fleishman Is In Trouble takes an interesting tone and perspective as Lizzy Caplan narrates the story in character as Libby. Caplan, a longtime favorite actress of mine, does great work here as her own character explores similar questions to Toby as she contends with the monotony of being a stay-at-home mother and wife who misses the fast-paced career she left behind. Adam Brody is excellent as the single Seth who balances his two friends with a seemingly carefree life that turns out to be anything but. In many ways, Fleishman Is In Trouble feels like the Elder Millennial equivalent of Sex and the City but with a more realistic angle to the storytelling as well as a sense of humor. All three of the main characters as well as Claire Danes as Rachel, have a lot of character development that makes them both relatable and intriguing to watch. The series also has a very heavy dose of Jewish-American humor as well as a satirical take on the privileged upper-class lifestyle that the Fleishmans frequently fight over.

Fleishman Is In Trouble shifts back and forth from Toby’s current post-divorce existence and his search for Rachel along with flashes to his college days and how he met his future wife. Eisenberg, Caplan, Brody, and Danes all play themselves in their early twenties through their forties, each as convincingly as if the scenes were filmed twenty years apart. The dynamic between Eisenberg and Caplan is one of the best in the series with both sharing a chemistry that had me rooting for them both individually as well as with each other. Danes is also quite good in her role and successfully goes toe to toe with Eisenberg every time they share a scene. Overall, this is another showcase for Eisenberg who is able to break out of the nebbish persona of a Woody Allen avatar and embodies one of the best roles of his career.

What helps turn Fleishman Is In Trouble from any other series to something stronger and better is the balance of the writing and directing which helps these actors bring this story to life. Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote seven of the eight episodes, adapting her own novel which helps this story feel as rich and layered as the source material. The one episode she did not script was written by Mike Goldbach (On Becoming a God in Central Florida). The directing crew is led by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, best known for directing the brilliant Little Miss Sunshine. Dayton and Faris helmed three of the eight episodes along with Alice Wu who directed one and Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor) who directed the remaining four. All of the filmmakers together deliver a cohesive story that has some truly unique visual style but mostly takes advantage of the excellent script and allows the cast to bring this story to life.

Fleishman Is In Trouble is one of the better dramas I have seen in a while that manages to be incredibly funny as much as it is affecting. I felt very connected to these characters who are all the same age I am and the story chronicled a very similar journey to adulthood that many of us who went to college in the late 90s/early aughts felt. This may not be a story as relatable for younger audiences, but anyone who has been married, been in love, or questioned their life will find a valuable connection to Toby Fleishman’s existential crisis. Fleishman Is In Trouble is the best Woody Allen movie that Woody Allen never made and should garner everyone involved a nomination come Emmy time. Jesse Eisenberg is stellar as are Lizzy Caplan, Claire Danes, and Adam Brody in a series that had me laughing almost as much as any other show I have seen this year.

Fleishman Is In Trouble premieres on with two episodes on November 17th on Hulu.


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