Fleishman Is in Trouble turns out to be a flawless adaptation

Adapted by author Taffy Brodesser-Akner and available now from FX, Fleishman is in trouble turns out to be a concise and intelligent examination of contemporary contexts.

Based on the New York Times bestseller, it follows Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg), who suddenly finds himself divorced after 15 years of marriage. With an established career in medicine and a morally upright approach to his job, everything seemed fine.

His now-ex-wife Rachel (Claire Danes) was a hugely successful theater agent, while they had two perfect children in Hannah (Meara Mahoney Gross) and Solly (Maxim Swinton). Until recently, they’d also shared a very comfortable life on the Upper East Side, mixing in affluent social circles and occasionally going downtown to see the people he liked.

Floating in the Manhattan social scene after a long hiatus, Toby finds himself using app-based technology to boost his flagging mood. Aided by the lack of a marital status, he ventures into this uncharted territory while trying to come to terms with his new situation. Things unfortunately go further south when Rachel doesn’t pick up her kids for the weekend and Toby is forced to improvise.

Image via FX Networks
Image via FX Networks

What showrunner Taffy Brodesser-Akner did here, with the help of Lizzy Caplan’s Libby, is capture her author’s voice through voiceover. Coupled with an impeccable ear for dialogue delivery and Anker’s ruthless eye for human foibles, both bring this world to life – going beyond the mere benefits of voiceover to delve deeper into the characters and reveal Toby’s inner conflicts.

With Hannah and Solly in tow, the audience improvises on the side as he tries to multitask to get himself out of sticky situations. In these first four episodes, Rachel is only present through flashbacks for an extended period of time, while Toby unconsciously goes through different phases of their relationship, jumping back and forth between past and present, allowing the audience to experience pivotal moments that all try to explain his here and now.

Luckily, Toby has a great network of support in best friends Libby and Seth (Adam Brody) who calm things down as events gradually escalate. From his first moments of infatuation to the final acts of verbal accusations decades later, writer Brodesser-Anker sums up their relationship perfectly. An approach that is enhanced not least by Eisenberg’s presence in the title role.

As a dramatic actor, he can seemingly tackle anything. From small indie roles to mainstream tentpole appearances, countless films have benefited from his presence. A fact that becomes clear in the first few minutes of the first episode when Toby goes into free fall after Rachel’s decision to disappear. As both an intellectually moral husband and a doting father, Eisenberg manages to infuse Toby with an everyman quality while allowing his imperfections to lend emotional depth.

Image via FX Networks
Image via FX Networks

As important as Rachel, Danes guides this roller coaster ride of a relationship through numerous ups and downs, with her passion, drive and confrontational nature proving to be the defining traits in a marriage heading toward divorce. Ultimately, this adaptation successfully blurs the lines between hero and villain – opting instead to paint in shades of gray when it comes to choosing sides.

Fleishman is in trouble also dramatizes the dating landscape and provides comedic context without trivializing or judging cultural advances. It builds this into a story that thrives on taking on universal themes and showing commonalities. Despite the location, this show will resonate with global audiences for that reason, as relationships in all their forms and functions work the same way. Country-specific customs can change things slightly, but at a fundamental level, our need for companionship defines us all.

Beyond the verbal fireworks and wild revelations that come thick and fast, this is what makes Fleischman work so well. With a Brodesser anchor on the tiller, this adaptation combines elements of Annie Hall With Sex and the Citythrough When Harry met Sally. There’s also a philosophical tone that underpins this lively piece of drama as Toby and Rachel pull an indiscreet veil over the remnants of their fractured relationship.

Neither a moral fable nor a pragmatic parable, this series excels at finding human moments amidst the tragedy of separation. All too close to the bone and no less entertaining for that, this is another home run from FX, who continue to produce some really moving character pieces.

https://wegotthiscovered.com/tv/review-fleishman-is-in-trouble-gets-ruthless-on-relationships/ Fleishman Is in Trouble turns out to be a flawless adaptation

Lindsay Lowe

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