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‘Girls’ Review: “Pilot”

Girls
HBO

“I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice of a generation.”

Lena Dunham‘s character Hannah says this in the pilot episode of ‘Girls,’ the new series written and directed by Dunham and produced by Judd Apatow. It’s the most self-aware assessment and utterly spot-on. Dunham is a voice of a generation, like it or not.

In the show, Hannah and her friends Marnie (Allison Williams) and returning British import Jessa (Jemima Kirke, who also had a very similar role in Dunham’s ‘Tiny Furniture’) are accompanied by Jessa’s roommate and cousin (Zosia Mamet in a surprisingly ditzy role) as a group of twenty-somethings navigating life in New York. Also joining the cast are Adam Driver — as Dunham’s non-committal love interest — and Alex Karpovsky, another ‘Tiny Furniture’ alum.

Hannah, an intern at a publishing house, loses the financial support from her parents, upending her goal of finishing her memoir. With her gravy train taken away, Hannah has to cope with the idea of finding a real job which compromises her long-term career goals.

Hannah is, much like Dunham’s ‘Tiny Furniture’ character, a bit spoiled. Some may find it difficult to relate or may refuse to empathize with such a frank portrait of a 24 year old white girl living in the big city. The ‘Sex and the City’ comparisons are inevitable, but rather than buck the comparison, ‘Girls’ coyly embraces its HBO single lady predecessor.

The show is a refreshing examination of the lives of young women, with a cringe-inducing and awkward sex scene between Hannah and Adam, as she pops in for a visit after losing her internship. She obviously likes him so much more than he cares for her, and it’s a highly relatable sequence wherein she says, “I like you so much, I don’t know where you disappear to.” But he plays aloof and the two engage in incredibly awkward sex, where Hannah is uncomfortable and unsure of how to conduct herself with him.

Meanwhile, Marnie feels like she wants to break up with her boyfriend Charlie, whose clinginess has become a major turn off. After a night of drinking opium tea, Jessa reveals to Marnie that she’s pregnant, while Hannah visits her parents’ hotel room in the middle of the night to beg them to keep supporting her. This scene is the highlight of the episode, with Hannah acting like a petulant brat, unable to understand how her parents could effectively disregard her potential and future.

‘Girls’ succeeds in its basic premise of young women coming of age in New York. While we like to think of “coming of age” as denoting pubescent awakening, the real coming of age as explored in recent years takes place in our twenties. Judd Apatow, with his portraits of regressive man children, is the perfect producer for the show, which seems to be not so much a female answer to this formula, but an honest examination of real, relatable women dealing with, you know, life and stuff.

It’s not necessarily provocative stuff, only in the sense that we so rarely get stories like this. ‘Sex and the City”s stories were always a bit glossy and cheeky, with precious resolutions and characters who were so financially (and fashionably) blessed that one could hardly relate. Instead, that show played to an audience that wished they could lead the lives of Carrie and friends. ‘Girls,’ on the other hand, plays to an audience that is already living that life.

Let’s be honest: Most of us come from spoiled backgrounds with parents who supported us long after they had to — regardless of their financial status — and many of us didn’t really grow up until they pulled the rug out from under us and forced us to figure it out. Ideally this happens when you turn 18 and head off to college, but for many people it doesn’t happen until their early 20s. ‘Girls’ captures the aimless nature of women of a certain age and idealism, women of this generation and this era, struggling to maintain their identity and convictions when forced to re-assess their priorities and re-organize their lives.

It’s not an entirely exclusive demographic, either. The humanity of the characters — whether you relate or not, you have a friend or friends who are just like Hannah and her girls — can speak to almost anyone, and the pitch-perfect comedy allows those who may not relate an insightful and witty look into the lives of these women.

Quotable:

“I didn’t mean to be rude, but I’m just not really into eating this week.”

“So I calculated and I can last in New York for three and a half days. Maybe seven if I don’t eat lunch.”

“When I look at both of you a Coldplay song plays in my heart.”

“Why don’t you get a job and start a blog?!”

“I think she may be high.” “It’s legal, like flowers!”

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