The Weekly Netflix Pick is going to be an Amazon Prime pick this week. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is just too good to be ignored. Amazon’s Prime video service has a ton of great content that doesn’t seem to get enough attention. This is me, doing my part, to spread the word about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel follows the titular Mrs. Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan). Midge is the picturesque 1950’s housewife. She is gorgeous, charming, well read, loving, and determined. She supports her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), in his endeavor to become a stand up comic while maintaining the household and managing their two kids. After a rough night on stage Joel confesses an affair to Midge and leaves her.
Given the time period and social standing, Midge is blamed for her husband leaving. Her parents Rose (Marin Hinkle), and Abe (Tony Shalhoub) help Midge but insist Joel coming back to her is her only option for a happy life. Frustrated with her life and everyone around her the intelligent and naturally funny woman stumbles drunkenly onto the very stage her husband bombed on. Midge unleashes a hilarious tirade before being escorted off the stage by the NYPD.
Midge is confronted by the talent organizer at the club, Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein). Susie has an eye for talent, and sees Midge making it as a professional stand up. The two start a friendship just as charming as the show itself.
Manhattan in the 1950s is a great setting. This time period is the very definition of Americana. The 1950’s is seen from our present time as a pretty wholesome era. Falling after World War 2 and before Vietnam it was an era of prosperity for our nation. Marvelous takes on a woman’s place in the society of the time and this woman’s idea that she doesn’t have to fit into the mold. The beatnick and youth revolution of the 1960s is already stirring and Midge is a fantastic embodiment of that.
Setting, tone, and style of 1950’s Manhattan are all perfect but the recreation of the city itself works wonders. There are no small feeling moments in the city. The city itself is often more than a setting in any production, Marvelous is no exception.
Being grounded in history without purporting itself as such; Marvelous is able to tell a compelling story and be funny while delivering us very real people. Luke Kirby’s performance as Lenny Bruce feels as authentic as the NYC setting, further grounding us all in the reality of the time.
The hilarious moments are countered with some great dramatic writing and the actors really sell us on feelings. The acting across the board is top notch.
Brosnahan’s IMDB resume boasts some roles in great projects including Manhattan, House of Cards, and The Blacklist. Brosnahan is beautiful, charming, and energetic as hell. She plays every aspect of her character as if you’re looking through a window at a real person. The stand up scenes, drunk and sober, are pitch perfect. The scenes of the emotional Midge breaking down as her picture-perfect life falls apart around her and no one seems to get it are equally real and powerful.
Borstein’s portrayal of Susie as a tomboy, or some other label Susie would make a snide remark about, Susie takes a lot of crap from the general public in a very non-pc world. Borstein does quite a lot of heavy lifting and her characters tough facade gets some chinks in the armor as the story unfolds. Her performance is simple and funny on the surface but the character delves so much deeper.
It would be easy to write a paragraph on every last actor in this production but one more mention must be made. The character of Joel Maisel deserves praise on both the writer’s part and the actor’s. As the husband who leaves Midge in the first episode, in the promos even, I figured Joel would be barely a side player in the remainder of the series. He stuck around. Whenever scenes followed Joel and Midge wasn’t around I was wondering why. As the scenes persisted it all comes together. Regardless of your feeling for Joel (hopefully negative) he is a fantastic character and a great symbol of what the show is delivering for the time period.
The comedy scene of the 1950’s would put us to sleep today. There is a bit that comes up a few times in the series and is something of a plot device, but it’s also a prime example at what people thought was funny. Writing Midge several routines herself that don’t feel out of place in the era but are legitimately hilarious for modern audiences is yet another magic trick show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino pulls off.
Addendum: I wrote about the show needing more attention, it was nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Best TV Comedy Series and Best Actress in a TV Comedy Series for Rachel Brosnahan.