Review: Hulu's 'Dollface' is an offensive caricature of millennial women
Do you go to brunch every Sunday? Do you get a mani/pedi every two weeks on the dot? Do you ignore your female friends for years if you're in a relationship? Are your only career options workaholic or freeloading bohemian? Do you dress every day like you just walked off a New York Fashion Week runway? Do you shower and exercise with makeup on? Do you lack even basic human empathy or a sense of acceptable social boundaries?
Well then, you might be a millennial woman, as portrayed on Hulu's absurd new series, "Dollface" (streaming Friday, ★ out of four).
The series, created by newcomer Jordan Weiss, follows Jules (Kat Dennings), a woman who, when dumped by her boyfriend of five years, realizes that she has allowed herself to be subsumed into his life – living in his apartment, socializing with his friends – over the course of the relationship, and feels adrift and alone without him. She reaches out to her college chums Madison (Brenda Song) and Stella (Shay Mitchell), which requires her to learn how to be a good friend again.
There's nothing about that synopsis, on its own, that sounds particularly objectionable – in fact, there are glimmers of what an insightful show about female identity this series could have been every so often in the 10-episode season. But it's the pastel-colored clichés, woefully outdated attempts at slang and a singular vision of what womanhood is in 2019 that makes the show cringe-worthy in all the wrong ways.
Part of the problem is the writers' choice to manifest Jules' insecurities and struggles through fantasy sequences that are neither fantastical nor consistent enough to work. They are jarringly inserted into some scenes and are elementary-school level metaphors.
Jules' fear of being alone after her breakup? A literal cat lady (with a really terrible computer-graphics cat head) drives up in a bus to retrieve her and other recently dumped women. A tiff between ladies at brunch? Jules has to hold a chasm together as it splits apart. And let's not even mention women worshipping at the church of brunch.
Apart from the fantasy sequences, "Dollface" has little in the way of compelling character work. Jules is a cipher, which is kind of the point of the series, but makes her a boring and at times annoying anchor for the show. Madison and Stella are defined by blasé stereotypes: Madison is a Type A workaholic; Stella a free-spirited, nebulously unemployed It Girl. Izzy (Esther Povitsky) rounds out the friend group as the least-believable human, a woman so insecure and directionless she pretends her name is "Alison" at work to get in with two genuine Alisons. Flitting in and out of episodes is Malin Akerman as Jules' and Izzy's boss at a Goop-ish lifestyle company, a complete waste of her talents.
No dialogue from any of these women is remotely believable, nor is any emotion or action. The world of the series is heightened to the point of absurdity, like a bunch of sponsored Instagram influencer posts brought to life in all their unreality. The writers clearly strive to say something big and deep about being a Woman Today, but the show doesn't get anywhere near insight or parody, reveling in offensive stereotypes rather than transcending them.
Thankfully, just as there is no one way to be a woman, there is more than one TV show trying to capture the experience ("Shrill"! "The Bold Type"! "Jane the Virgin!" "Younger"!). If you're looking for a more diverse and thoughtful take on womanhood, any of those will do.