Culture / Entertainment

8 Things about Netflix’s Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie is the new Netflix series brought to us by Marta Kaufman of Friends fame.The show is a modern day Odd Couple with Grace (Jane Fonda as the uptight control freak) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin as the new age, pot smoking hippy) forced into living together after their husbands reveal that they are gay and have been having an affair for the past 20 years.

I finished the series with mixed feelings and there were definitely hits and misses.

Misses

1. Sam Waterston’s eyebrows: I know I should not be so shallow as to focus on a character’s eyebrows but they drove me to distraction in the first few episodes of the show. They are so prominent and wiggly that they should have their own billing in the credits. Sam Waterston is always a twitchy actor and the eyebrows do not help.

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2. Jane Fonda overacts: I love Jane Fonda but she has a tendency to overact, especially during highly comedic scenes. Her mouth is saying her lines but her body is saying, “Look! I am an actress! Look at me with all the acting!” I forgive her but there are times when I wanted to put her in a time out.

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3. The tone of the show is uneven: The show is supposed to be a comedy and the early episodes try to live up to that with mixed results. In later episodes, however, the show shakes off the scenes that seem like they should come with laugh tracks for real interactions that are far more impactful and make you smile if not laugh out loud.

4. Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are not a believable couple: There are always questions about whether gay actors can play straight but rarely do we talk about straight actors playing gay. I have tremendous respect for both Martin Sheen (Robert) and Sam Waterston (Saul) but they have little chemistry. Waterston has great chemistry with Lily Tomlin. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda have chemistry that builds through the series. Sadly, Sheen has little chemistry with anybody which makes the premise of the show hard to believe.

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Hits

1. The relationship between Grace and Frankie: They start out not liking each other but begin to see each other fully, develop compassion for each other, share secrets and support each other when they feel most alone. These are women with complicated histories filled with regrets and mistakes and they were only friends because their husbands were friends and business partners. Their friendship takes center stage and they move beyond caricatures to something real.

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2. Briana: Both couples have children and they all play prominent roles in the story. The true standout of the bunch is Briana who provides plenty of comic relief as Grace’s bitchy daughter. Over the course of 13 episodes, we get to see her as more than that however. She is deeply damaged by her parents’ coldness and efforts to present the perfect family to the world but she is also funny, loyal and surprisingly compassionate. I loved every minute she was on screen.

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3. Storylines tackle aging: From the very beginning, Grace and Frankie talk openly about their fear about divorcing in their 70’s and facing old age in a way they never imagined. In later episodes, they talk about sex and sexuality as older women right down to the importance of lube. It is refreshing to see older women portrayed as sexual beings and to see issues of aging as an integral part of the story.

4. We see the challenges of coming out later in life: Robert and Saul have been married to their wives for 40 years when they come out. Not only do they have to deal with the shock of friends and family, they have to face homophobia that is often a hallmark of the older generation. At Robert and Saul’s bachelor party, things get a little wild when Briana rents a mechanical penis for guests to ride. One of Robert’s oldest friends turns on Robert saying that he never thought Robert would throw his “lifestyle” in his face and says, “I don’t have a problem with you being a homosexual but when did you become such a faggot?” It’s a powerful scene that shows the unique challenges of coming out later in life.

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This was funny.

The show is billed as a comedy which is a disservice. Yes, there are some laughs but the best parts of the show are not the quips but the poignant portrayal of friendships forged over time and the peek into the lives of four characters aging and figuring out what the rest of their lives will look like.

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12 Comments

  1. Deborah Goldstein says:

    Yes to all of these things! I wasn’t as put off by Jane’s over acting, but I was very disappointed with Sam’s portrayal of Saul. Saul seemed simple-minded – almost moronic at times. Robert was more like Saul’s care-giver than a lover.

    Mostly, though, I liked it because of everyone else’s character and all the other relationship dynamics and I even laughed out loud at times. Also, I just can’t help but absolutely adore Lily Tomlin.

    • So true. Waterston has become nothing more than a cartoonish caricature who has fallen madly in love with his own scratchy voice and over emotive facial expressions. He’s the same character in every show he appears. He ruins this show.

  2. Well i am going to watch it.

  3. My question is why do Grace and Frankie live in the same home?

    Grace expressed an interest in the summer home they all own, Frankie said she wants the home she raised her children in, and the men are living in Grace and Robert’s home. I understand the writers need the women to interact as there would be no show otherwise. However, to me, it’s unbelievable the women would choose to live together, considering they weren’t friends to begin with, and there are enough homes to go around. It seems more plausible that each would have lived in their separate homes, and contuined to live separate lives. The show itself is interesting, but I just can’t get over this detail.

    Did I miss something? Why do the women live together?

    • Vikki Reich says:

      I think we are supposed to believe that Grace and Frankie’s emerging friendship led them to share the house. But yeah – it’s a plot device.

    • Yes, I just rewatched episode one thinking I missed something. Both women go out to the beach house to get away, but then it is not spoken as to why they continue to lstay together.?.. I still think I may have missed something?? Please fill me in.

  4. I believe that the women live together not out of financial need but gravitated toward each other. I think the beach was the draw. They needed to be away secluded and initially Frankie was bullheaded and was not going to let Frankie, put her out of the house.

    I bought it.

  5. I couldn’t disagree with you more. The only aspect I almost agreed with was your comment about “storylines tackling aging” but then you went on to describe “fear about divorcing in their 70’s.” Everyone has a fear of divorcing no matter what age. There are so many other examples of “stories tackling aging” that this show deals with, so well, but, ironically, you isolated one that has an ageless theme. I am just beginning to watch “Frankie and Grace” and tickled at every move, caress, loving glance and embrace that Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston share with each other. They are, for me, the truth and guts of the show. Jane Fonda IS an actress! There was a time when actors knew how to shine brighter than their spotlight and BE something more than human. The voice was used as an instrument to convey and command emotion. In today’s world we have mumblers with vocal fry speaking some unintelligible language calling themselves actors. It’s become maddening and I’m so relieved to finally see a glorious actress taking on a role with such expertise and style. I thought that Hollywood died after Anjelica Huston stopped making films, our last great screen Diva, using her cigarette with such panache in whatever film she appeared. That you tear down the talents of such a fine actress who represents the glory days with such skill and “grace” (so aptly named) deserves a little more knowledge on your part as a writer/blogger. This show might not have the mastery of others – yet – but it’s certainly a breath of fresh air and sorely needed in comparison to most of the crap on TV nowadays. I shall keep watching, laughing, commiserating with every scene that resonates so well. And PS. Sam’s eyebrows are as vital as Lucy’s red hair! Shame on you for that one!
    Amusingly yours,
    Steven

  6. SortaGood says:

    What a sorry disappointment. I so wanted to like this show, but I thought it was terrible.
    It’s as if none of the famous old actors had never acted before. It’s like a high school bad theater show, with over-acting, timing off and stilted line delivery.
    I love Sam Waterson, but in this, trying to “act” gay, instead he acts like a 4-year old, constantly shrugging his shoulders and walking like like a pre-schooler, and wagging his head around. He’s supposed to be a retired lawyer, but he plays the part as a someone whose elevator doesn’t go to the top of the building.
    There’s nothing real, sensitive or funnay about this to me. I managed to get through several episodes, then I skipped to the middle and then to the end shows, hoping to see they got comfortable with the characters, or if they figured out how to edit the shows, but they were still unreal.
    I don’t know if it’s the actors’, the director’s, or the producers’ fault but this has no flow for me.
    I don’t mean to insult those who love it as much as I wanted to and I’m glad you have something to enjoy, but this

  7. Carol Hill says:

    I love this show. Where is Season 3???

  8. Gabriele Davieds says:

    I am a fan of the show, but hated the way Season 2 ended. “Bud” is always passed over, as he is supportive, but neglected. I’m not black, just like him as he is a character with depth, yet the show doesn’t tap into it. When his birthday party finally happened (once every 4 years), the characters were all too self absorbed, and totally ruined his special day. It wasn’t funny, and made these women look bad as they abandoned the birthday boy, and wouldn’t stop going on about their own issues.

    Ironically, Despite their bad behavior, they were proud of themselves, thinking that their deceased friend would have been pleased with this turn of events. I think they missed the point completely. I like the show, but sorry, this was not a good final episode.

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