News · TV

Amazon’s ‘Modern Love’ Could Be the Ideal Romance Anthology

John Carney’s next TV project draws together an ambitious crew of actors, writers, and directors and is primed for success.
Anne Hathaway One Day
Focus Features
By  · Published on November 27th, 2018

Amazon had already made a noticeable coup when it nabbed a straight-to-series project from John Carney (Sing Street) earlier in the year, but recent updates about the show continue to heighten its appeal. According to Deadline, Modern Love, which will be based on the popular New York Times love and relationships column of the same name, has landed a star-studded cast and a slate of fascinating directors.

There is a huge list of actors incoming for Modern Love, which will be a half-hour anthology comprising eight standalone episodes. Starring in what Amazon head Jennifer Salke has described as “heightened kind [sic] of stories about love and romance” are various big-name stars and relative up-and-comers. Namely, Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, John Slattery, Dev Patel, Catherine Keener, Andy Garcia, Cristin Milioti, Brandon Victor Dixon, Olivia Cooke, Andrew Scott, Julia Garner, Shea Whigham, Gary Carr, Sofia Boutella, and John Gallagher, Jr. will headline the series.

Carney is set to spearhead Modern Love as director, writer, and producer. Additionally, Emmy Rossum (Shameless), Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), and Tom Hall (Sensation) will lend their directorial talents to the show as well. Horgan and Hall wrote their own screenplays, while Rossum will helm from a script by the late Audrey Wells (The Hate U Give). The sheer achievement of putting together such an excellent team together is not lost on Carney, who remarks:

“It’s like I woke up in the actor candy store. We’ve managed to assemble a dream cast of my favorite actors. It’s a testament to the reach of the original column and of how, now more than ever, love is the only certainty.”

And I totally agree with him. Apart from the fact that tons of my own favorite performers will soon star in his show, Modern Love as a whole has a chance to tell love stories of all kinds — romantic, sexual, platonic, self-love — that are truly relevant to a multitude of demographics.

In general, the eponymous Times column has attracted attention regardless of Carney’s adaptation. The column’s podcasts have been frequented by other noteworthy celebrities such as Ethan Hawke and Kristen Bell, who read from a selection of quirky essays and anecdotes. Nevertheless, a goldmine of content can be found among just a brief assortment of the titles peppering Modern Love, including “Talking to My Fiancé About My New Girlfriend,” “How I Lost the Fiancé but Won the Honeymoon,” “When Neither Male Nor Female Seems to Fit,” and “Alexa? Please Ignore My Husband.”

There is clearly a broad representational palate for Carney’s series to dive into, should Amazon decide to utilize the most distinctive stories (notably those to do with trans identity and people of color). Moreover, Modern Love has a collection of Tiny Love Stories, narrative compilations of 100 words or less that are submitted by readers chronicling romantic ups and downs. Thus, there is a wealth of inspiration to be garnered from the show’s source material. Having Carney oversee the entire project is a great idea, too. This should ensure some semblance of coherence within the series despite multiple storytellers jumping on board for their own episodes.

Arguably, such foundational elements are particularly essential to any anthology series because regardless of how many big-name actors are attached, uneven narratives would be an Achilles’ heel. And especially when divvied up into half-hour segments, every disjointed plot has to pack a punch in its own unique way.

The sheer number of actors who have joined the Modern Love cast does make me wonder if there will be some peripheral crossover potential in the series. Granted, the prospect doesn’t totally save it from simply becoming a sum of its parts if it isn’t done right. That is the unfortunate fate that befell the anthology romantic comedy-drama New York, I Love You, a movie which attempts and fails to thread together a string of short films due to their irregular quality. The 2008 film does also suffer from its surface-level material, but its lack of cohesion only highlights those flaws. The Master of None episode named after and similarly structured to New York, I Love You does a far better job of encouraging empathy through the anthology format. It warmly empathizes with oft-overlooked characters in life and on screen.

Ultimately, Joe Swanberg’s Easy is the most praiseworthy example of how individual stories can examine different aspects of love, even if it isn’t perfect. Set in Swanberg’s classic stomping grounds of Chicago, the show draws from the best parts of his toned-down, mumblecore roots. Easy ends up being a believable and relatable series asking questions about sex and relationships, bolstered by its shared setting and Swanberg’s singular writing and directing style (he writes and directs the show himself). Admittedly, his scripts are simple, but the prioritized normalcy within the series almost justifies that lack of narrative ambition. Overall, Easy still succeeds by giving its buzzworthy cast, which includes Orlando Bloom, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Jake Johnson, nuggets of real life to explore.

Modern Love would hopefully learn from Easy‘s imperfections in order to fully encapsulate love stories of the current era. Not only does it have the fortuitous virtue of an awesome crew, complete with ideal screenwriters, directors, and actors, but the Times column it will be based on provides a plethora of beguiling, unique content from which to build the series around.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)