By Judy Berman
November 14, 2019

The genesis of Dollface is a Cinderella story for the age of Peak TV. Dreamed up as a writing sample by recent University of Southern California grad Jordan Weiss, the original teleplay about a young woman struggling to make an independent life for herself after a devastating breakup found its way to Margot Robbie’s production company. Now, it’s a 10-episode Hulu comedy starring Kat Dennings.

It’s easy to see why Weiss’ script made such an impression. Debuting Nov. 15, the show opens with a scene so familiar, it verges on cliché: Jules’ (Dennings) longtime boyfriend Jeremy (Connor Hines) dumps her over al fresco eggs at a cute brunch spot. But things get weird fast. Suddenly, he’s depositing her in front of a bus driven by a humanoid with the CGI head of a cat—“You’ve never seen an old cat lady before?” she cracks—that’s filled with sobbing women. After years of living at Jeremy’s house, hanging out with Jeremy’s buddies and bonding with Jeremy’s family, Jules has been dismissed with nothing to show for her five years of devotion except a one-way ticket back to the land of female solidarity. Out the bus window, she observes a series of cautionary tales—women who couldn’t bear to spend time with other women: “Guys’ girls” roam through the desert in cropped football jerseys mumbling about video games. One passenger bolts at “Rebound Town” to settle for a schlubby dude who still lives with his mom. Yet when Jules reaches her destination, a terminal where travelers reunite with their girlfriends, no one is waiting to pick her up. She’s neglected the women in her life for so long, they’ve moved on without her.

After that hilarious, surreal journey, the episode settles into something more like reality. Jules tracks down her old pals, control-freak mother hen Madison (Brenda Song) and party girl Stella (You standout Shay Mitchell, in a similarly fun, over-the-top role). She gets to know her co-workers at a women’s wellness startup called Woom; one of them, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend alum Esther Povitsky’s loopy, obsessive Izzy, gets absorbed into her friend group. Though the jokes about their Goop-y, millennial-pink workplace feel stale from the beginning, the interplay between Jules’ quotidian existence and her panicked fantasias is promising at first.

Dollface remains energetic—and exuberantly weird—throughout the season, as the Cat Lady keeps returning to guide Jules in her quest for an identity. Her friends eventually get their own plots, setting up a versatile hangout comedy with the potential to outlive the initial breakup storyline. If only the show’s tone and characters felt more consistent across episodes, once other screenwriters are in the mix. Like Fleabag and The Bisexual, both scripted by their creators, Dollface could capitalize on the freshness and specificity of a singular voice. Instead, Weiss’ original vision becomes as fragmented as Jules’ heart.

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