The arrangement of any boy and girl, teenage or otherwise, is bound for moments of awkwardness. This goes beyond the conversations plagued with seemingly endless pockets of silence. Those arise in every relationship. No, the moments of awkwardness can sprout organically from any number of precise directions, such as a boy's need to take charge when his matador skills are novice at best, or a girl's furor over looking perfect only to find a parcel of food stuck in her teeth 20 minutes after the date has started.
These "I could drop dead" situations have happened to you. That is, if you're one who has, at any given point in your life, been on a date. And you don't have to have dated someone exclusively for a long time to have dipped your toe in the horrendous pool of "bad date" mishaps. But Judd Apatow takes those moments and stretches them to every possible extreme in his new dramedy Love. Love features an array of screwed-up characters, but focuses its story on two quirky souls (Mickey played by Gillian Jacobs and Gus played by Paul Rust) in their early 30's who have managed to, in a variety of ways, screw up all of their previous romantic relationships. By pure happenstance the two meet after recent failures with boyfriends and girlfriends, and there in ensues a multi-episodic drama pinning Gus against his goofiness and Mickey against her own addictions and lack of understanding what she really wants.
The shows plays out in Los Angeles, which is about right when you consider the variety of cringe-y-ness and broken characters. But it's not so LA that it doesn't gently take us by the hand and remind us that we have all at some point been Gus or Mickey, flailing about in a world that wants us to find a soulmate but instead we crash and burn without really ever understanding how to fly the plane.
Take, for example, Mickey, who is invited to a cult-like church meeting by an ex who has apparently found peace and wants her to find it too. The problem is, Mickey is high on pills and instead shows up to said meeting wearing an orange one piece bathing suit and gets on stage to deliver an odd rant on her feelings about life. This is just the tip of the iceberg of Mickey's problems, but the next morning she meets Gus who will, unintentionally, add to her personal dilemmas.
The chance meeting takes place at a gas station where Mickey desperately wants a coffee but has brought no money to pay for it. Along comes our white knight Gus who volunteers to pay for Mickey's coffee. This moment that spins to the main plot of the show feels much like John Updike's short story "A&P" which also features a young man rescuing a stranger who doesn't ask them for help.
From there, Gus and Mickey spend time together in a variety of ways, beginning initially with her setting Gus up with her somewhat aloof roommate from Australia. This is almost a pity date setup by Mickey who feels sorry for Gus being a geek of sorts and not someone worthy of her romantic attention. It's sometime after that where Gus once again comes to Mickey's defense by exterminating live bugs she has trapped under red solo cups in her bedroom. This, from a man's understanding, is one of the noblest actions that is also a huge attraction factor for a woman: killing terrorist spiders that threaten to annihilate all of mankind.
Gus takes Mickey on a real date including a fancy restaurant and of course a magic show at an exclusive dress-code only castle. This is the location of Mickey's first major screw up in her brand new relationship with Gus. She hates magic. Finds it silly and pointless. Gus, however, loves it. Mickey lets her disdain show, and ultimately they find themselves kicked out of the magic show, much to the humiliation of Gus who has spent numerous weekends enjoy rabbits being pulled from hats and ladies sawed in half, presumably alone.
The story winds its way around and back again as Mickey begins to discover she really does like Gus, and in turn makes humiliating appearances at a party and at his work in order to either apologize or to make some claim to a stake in his life that he doesn't really seem to have up for sale. The dynamics are such that many of us can put ourselves there, in some manner, in every scene. We're either the one being chased by someone we're unsure of and don't immediately have feelings for, or we're the one chasing, meandering around a workplace of a crush in hopes of seeing them but hoping just as much that they won't see us.
Love puts a spin on this story that doesn't make it unique and riveting as much as it does relatable to everyone who has experienced major heartbreaks that are really minor in the big picture. Much like your own love story, perhaps, Love is inaccessible in the way that you can't figure out how Mickey and Gus will eventually fit together. They're common with their oddities (which make their characters enjoyable), but different enough in their interests that this seems to be a love story doomed for failure. But do you ever remember a Judd Apatow story not ending on a good note?
The seriousness of this shown truly comes to a head later on when Mickey goes to a sex addiction support meeting, on top of the AA meetings she's been going to. Her self-esteem is non-existent to the point that her brashness substitutes for any normal feelings she may have towards others. This trait works to make Mickey unappealing much of the time, but earns her sympathy when you realize just how broken she is. Gus is the good guy. He's the respectful nerd that Mickey has never wanted but always needed. Awkwardness aside, Gus is quite charming, and fights for the respect of everyone he meets, almost to a fault.
This series is only through one season, but the story wrapped up so well I'm not sure what a second season could arouse in a plot sequence. Apatow really could have condensed 10 episodes down to fewer, but the need for character development took center stage. Love is masterful at that.
As for what you'll take from Love, I would say nostalgia. You'll think back on those dates you've pushed into a subconscious because they became so glaringly bad you fear remembering them will broadcast them somehow on YouTube for others to see. You'll appreciate the hoops others go through in order to make things work, to make things stick together in such a way that they'll last for a length of time, preferably forever.
In the most 2016 way possible, at the end of episode 10, an Instagram post (of all things) is what catapults the story from hopelessness into an opportunity for love to take place. It's a post thrust into the world of social media that's intended for everyone to see but not just one person to see that pulls the leash on potential back into life. Here, despite numerous flaws and irrelevant characters, Love wins. Not even so much because its story is so well told, but because it's a story so well told about us.