“A smart and witty twist on the reality genre, Doll & Em is a six-part series created by actors Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells, starring Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells, and written by Emily Mortimer, Dolly Wells, and Azazel Jacobs,” begins Amy Taubin at Artforum. “Mortimer’s husband, Alessandro Nivola, is the producer, and Jacobs directed the entire shebang. Mortimer and Wells are British, as is the series, which was made for the Sky Channel’s Sky Living, and then acquired by HBO. Five of the six half-hour episodes, however, are located in LA. So is this an incestuous selfie—smug Brits with excellent educations and cultural pedigrees (Mortimer is the daughter of the late novelist and playwright John Mortimer, Wells of the late actor and writer John Wells)—sending up Hollywood? Happily, not so much…. Jacobs, whose not quite autobiographical feature Momma’s Man (2008) starred his own parents, Ken and Flo Jacobs, and was set in the magical Chambers Street loft where he grew up, is a perfect director for this reality tinged fiction.”
Vulture‘s Matt Zoller Seitz finds that “Doll & Em has the feel of a mid-’90s, femme-centric American indie flick (Nicole Holofener’s Walking and Talking comes to mind). Much of the dialogue is improvised, sometimes charmingly, other times shakily. Most of the situations are mundane. The humor comes from observing the minute details of Doll and Em’s friendship and learning the different ways in which, despite their deep and real affection, they delude themselves and each other, and sometimes scold or deceive each other without consciously intending to.”
The series “takes place in hilltop mansions and on movie sets,” writes New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley. “What sets it apart from many other arch, self-mocking looks at Hollywood is that the central problem—the unspoken enmity between loving friends—could happen anywhere, at a university, in a congressional office or in a beer bottling plant. The story is framed by the outsize absurdities of show business, but Doll & Em is a character study in miniature.”
Pilot Viruet sets it up at Flavorwire: “When Dolly goes through a rough breakup, Emily invites her to spend some time in Los Angeles and become her assistant. It’s a quick fix at first, but neither knows what this new boss-employee relationship entails. Emily sort of knows what she wants but is uncomfortable articulating it: No, you don’t have to get me coffee every morning, but by the way, here is exactly how I want my coffee every morning…. Both Wells and Mortimer are no strangers to this embarrassing world, and their insight into it is simultaneously fascinating and hard to watch.”
At Criticwire, Sam Adams collects more reviews and Denise Martin interviews Mortimer for Vulture.
Update: “The Holly-weird ribbing is direct but never mean-spirited,” writes Chris Cabin for Slant, “and the show’s view of performance as a high that feeds off of emotional volatility, stress, and uncertainty, and subsequently turns into an all-consuming addiction, is wiser and more curious when it comes to the impulse of performance than the last three-dozen or so burn-Hollywood-burn ‘satires.'”
Update, 3/29: Interviews with Jacobs: Eric Kohn (Indiewire), Scott Macaulay (Filmmaker) and Adam Schartoff (Filmwax Radio).
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