Spoiler alert, if anyone cares
If you haven’t heard of it, Grace and Frankie is Netflix’s newest original series (they’re just cranking them out at this point) featuring an all-star cast of Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sam Waterson, and Martin Sheen.
The duos of Tomlin-Waterson (hippies) and Fonda-Sheen (straight-edge) are two married couples whose lives are upended when Waterson and Sheen announce to their wives that they are in a homosexual relationship and want to get married.
It’s Netflix’s watered-down answer to Amazon’s Transparent, which is emotionally heavier, smarter, and more nuanced. But I digress.
Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin), are the spurned soon-to-be-ex-wives and we watch them live together in the families’ shared beach house where they drive each other a little crazy and eventually form a strong female friendship.
While they each play a fairly familiar archetype–Grace is the tempered career woman and Frankie is the irrepressible free spirit–Fonda and Tomlin breathe life into a rather formulaic Odd Couple-ing. I didn’t really grow to love them until about episode 6 or 7, when they are truly there for each other.
Their children are forgettable, except for June Diane Raphael’s Briana, who is unapologetically driven and vain. (As a side note, if you love Raphael as much as I do, watch her parody of the Bachelor, Burning Love, or listen to her dissect bad movies in the podcast How Did This Get Made?)
I just can’t see Ethan Embry without thinking of his character in Sweet Home Alabama.
And he has zero chemistry with Brooklyn Decker, so I don’t buy that back story.
But unlike Transparent (that’s my last comparison, I promise!), the show is about the parents, not the adult children. Robert and Sol’s transition from a closeted 20-year affair to an open gay engagement in their 70s is an important part of the story. Where their new coupling fits in relation to their previous lives and friend groups, and within the larger gay community, makes for an innovative premise and I hope they can explore it further in future seasons.
To me, Martin Sheen is the weakest of the four headlining stars. But maybe it’s because he’s paired with Sam Waterson’s beautiful portrayal of Sol. He manages to play adorkable at 74, and he conveys genuine love and connection with both his fiancé Robert (Sheen) and his ex-wife Frankie (Tomlin).
His difficulty in choosing Robert over Frankie, and what that means for everyone involved, is ultimately the dominant drama of the season.
My main hope is that next season they change the theme song from a cover of “Stuck in the Middle With You.” Every time I hear it, I think of that scene from Reservoir Dogs, and that’s not really the appropriate mindset for an episode of Grace and Frankie.