‘Fleishman Is In Trouble’ Review: The New Hulu Series Is Delicious (And Sexy)

If Gone Girl received the recut trailer processing in the style of a Woody Allen movie, it would probably look like a lot Fleishman is in trouble. The new smart Hulu limited series, based on the novel of the same name by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, premieres November 17. There’s the failed marriage, the sad white man in his forties, and most importantly, the missing woman. But it’s also filled with anxious, neurotic New York Jews, philosophical back and forths, money and sex. Lots of sex.

Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg) is a recently divorced liver doctor with two kids who kinda hate him and a pretty down-to-earth bachelor pad in his dirt (complete with a set of broken vertical blinds). Despite his sad dismissal, Toby’s status is on the rise. On “apps” at least.

Read more: 8 Useful Hulu Tips You’re Probably Not Using and Netflix vs Hulu: Who has the best price, original shows and movies?

Once unlucky in love, with an undiagnosed eating disorder and a chip on his shoulder that both predate his marriage, Toby can’t believe his newfound social capital as a middle-aged divorcee in the within Tinder, a universe that did not exist. the last time it was on the market. Suddenly, he’s drowning in sexts from available single women who send pictures of “their side boobs, or their underbusts, or just their normal boobs,” says the show’s very opinionated narrator.

The identity of the narrator, at least for those who haven’t read the book, is a bit of a spoiler. But the TV adaptation reveals it halfway through Episode 1, and even earlier if you recognize Lizzy Caplan’s sardonic pace. Caplan plays Libby, Toby’s college friend, prematurely retired journalist, reluctant stay-at-home mom from Jersey, and a bit sad herself. Libby has her own issues, the show suggests.

Lizzy Caplan as Libby sits in a cafe across from Toby.

Lizzy Caplan as Toby’s friend Libby, also the show’s sardonic narrator.

Linda Kallerus/FX

Toby Reconnects With His College Friends – The Threesome Completed With Adam Brody Playing another lovely Seth – whom he hasn’t seen much since his marriage. At first glance, Toby’s ex-wife, Rachel Fleishman (played by Claire Danes in a power suit), is clearly the villain. She has the blunt bob of a careerist virago and a not-so-bubbling resentment, stoked by the anxieties typical of the Upper East Side upstart, as well as too many emails to respond to. But the show’s interest in first looks is only insofar as they can be reversed. Things are not what they seem.

When we meet Toby, Rachel has just left town unexpectedly for a yoga retreat, leaving Toby to take care of the two children. (“I have to secure my oxygen mask, you know? Before theirs,” she says.) The little inconvenience slowly turns daunting as Rachel misses phone calls, texts, and childcare, and Toby gets realizes that she may be missing. “Yeah, he was a terrible person,” Libby recounts as Toby begins to panic, “but bad things happen to terrible people too.”

Claire Danes as Rachel Fleishman stands in front of a contemplative-looking window.

Claire Danes’ Rachel has the right haircut for a villain, but things aren’t quite that simple.

Matthias Clamer/FX

At times, Libby’s stream-of-consciousness voiceover is distracting, making the scenes feel like documentary re-enactments. But Libby’s perspective is also a welcome antidote to Toby’s general “my ex is crazy” vibe, which will likely dampen sympathy from most viewers. The first two episodes may test the limits of your patience with the rich, white masculinity of it all. But you will be rewarded if you make it to Episode 3.

Like Gone Girl and other Rashomon-style marriage stories that thrill and accuse audiences by cutting the rug (Lauren Groff’s Fates and FuriesHBO Scenes from a wedding), Fleishman’s swinging pivot, a single line spoken by the always excellent J. Smith Cameron as Toby’s divorce attorney, will have you sitting in your chair and saying “Oh fuck…” The show’s title, superimposed on an upside-down New York skyline, does not specify who Fleishman is in trouble, after all.

The mystery of Rachel’s whereabouts is less a driving plot and more an excuse to examine how two people looking in the same direction can see such different viewpoints. If you’re hoping for a plot, stick with Gone Girl. But the Hulu adaptation is thrilling in other, more literary ways, thanks to executive director Brodesser-Akner who produced and wrote all but one episode.

Adam Brody as Seth, offering a bottle of beer.

Adam Brody is Toby’s other college friend, Seth, whose love life has always been more successful than Toby’s.

Matthias Clamer/FX

The novel, so interior and cerebral, at first seemed like an odd choice for the streaming TV treatment. But somehow the show pulls it off, giving the viewer the same joy of picking up what an astute writer writes. The ever-regenerative liver, Toby’s medical specialty, is a recurring motif. His son’s science project also becomes a theme generator, with forays into relativity and block universe theory that signal the show’s more intellectual aspirations and give the show an opportunity to introduce fantastic visual effects, reminiscent of the very literary HBO Max. station eleven adaptation.

The romance elements, if sometimes a little on the nose – uh, the liver – work for the most part. (Even the oxygen mask analogy manages to transcend its own cliche with a clever midseason callback.) And the nifty TV adaptation performs the same balancing act that was its source material’s major triumph, recreating the deliciously slow recalibration of the allegiance novel. You just have to stick around long enough for it to happen.

Comments are closed.