Love in the Time of Corona, riffing off the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel Love in the Time of Cholera, is too perfect a title to not have been swooped up eventually. I was surprised to see Freeform nab it first. The increasingly saucy family-friendly network released a four-part dramedy set in the early days of quarantine, available on Hulu and Freeform’s app. The show follows four interwoven stories over the course of a few weeks in the spring of 2020. James (Leslie Odom Jr) and Sade (Nicolette Robinson) are stuck at home with their young daughter and start contemplating having another baby. Meanwhile, Sarah (Rya Kihlstedt) and Paul (Gil Bellows) try to conceal that they have separated when their teenage daughter, Sophie (Ava Bellows), is sent home from college. Nanda (L. Scott Caldwell) is physically separated from her husband, Charles (Charles Robinson), who is in a short-term nursing home, but still plans their fiftieth-anniversary party while trying to patch things up between her son Dedrick (Catero Colbert) and his father and brother, James. Finally, Elle (Rainey Qualley) and her best friend and roommate, Oscar (Tommy Dorfman), deal with complicated feelings as they try to set each other up online.
Love in the Time of Corona reminds me of those holiday-centered movies that were big a few years ago, such as Valentine’s Day. The somewhat corny stories lightly overlap, drawing the audience toward a feel-good ending. The beginning of this series is pretty rough, with obvious jokes and sometimes wooden acting. As the stories unfold, however, I found myself increasingly invested in the characters so that I was moved, despite myself, by the series’ conclusion that you “can’t quarantine love.” In fact, the series does touch on some of the big human interest stories of the pandemic—older couples separated, young families trying to make things work, and how does one even date during this time!? I was impressed that the writers were able to pull off a romantic plot (between Elle and her neighbor Adam) that actually had some charm.
Largely, this show focuses on artists and Hollywood types who have a certain amount of privilege, which makes their experiences different than those many, many people have had during the pandemic, but it takes up some of our shared experiences with heart. It’s not great television, but it also does not come off like it is simply trying to exploit a great title.
Considering how few Hollywood projects are up and running because of social distancing protocols, I was really curious about how this show got made. Cleverly, the production cast actors who were already living together, namely couple Leslie Odom Jr and Nicolette Robinson, a married couple and their daughter—Gil Bellows, Rya Kihlstedt, and Ava Bellows—and a pair of roommates, Tommy Dorfman and Rainey Qualley. The arrangement got me thinking about how many actors already live with other actors. There are so many possibilities, really.
Love in the Time of Corona was written and directed by Joanna Johnson and runs for four half-hour episodes. It is rated TV-14.
Now on Amazon Prime, Seberg tells the story of the French New Wave actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart), who was targeted by the FBI after getting involved with Black Panther activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie). Although the film makes some nods to Seberg’s traumatizing introduction to acting via film director Otto Preminger, the story really focuses on the later years of Jean’s life as she seeks to use her celebrity for political influence.
Jean Seberg’s story is a fairly shocking historical footnote and Seberg does an adequate job of explaining the FBI’s misguided vendetta against Jean Seberg while also doing justice to her desire to make the world better. The plot could have easily become convoluted, but the writers do a good job of walking a fine line between oversimplifying the story and making it too complicated to follow. It is just not terribly compelling as told.
Really, the movie is a vehicle for Kristen Stewart’s performance. A fairly aloof actress with a penchant for doing independent films, Stewart is a logical choice to play Seberg. She portrays Seberg with subtlety and style. Her natural awkwardness lends itself to the difficulty of Seberg’s story while her emotional depth brings the charged nature of her experiences to life.
If this story interests you, the podcast You Must Remember This did a fabulous season unpacking the stories of Jean Seberg and Jane Fonda.
Seberg was written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse and directed by Benedict Andrews. It runs 102 minutes and is rated R for language, sexual content/nudity, and some drug use.
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