‘Dollface’ Review: The New Hulu Series Struggles But Ultimately Soars
One of the newest Hulu Original Series, Dollface, drops its ten-episode first season on Nov. 15, 2019. There’s a lot to love about the series, which stars Kat Dennings as Jules, a young woman who is unceremoniously dumped and has to reform bonds of friendship with her college pals, Madison (Brenda Song) and Stella (Shay Mitchell). Her new work friend, Izzy (Esther Povitsky), is also along for the ride. Here’s our spoiler-free review of the first season.
The beginning is a little muddled
Dollface begins with Jules’ breakup and launches almost immediately into what you see in the trailer. In the first few episodes, she’s still working to get her friends (specifically Madison) to trust her again. Occasionally, the show gets a bit convoluted for the sake of making a plot work or a character have a specific revelation.
It takes a little while for the story to really come together. Though the group sort of falls into place (again, in a way that doesn’t feel quite as natural as you’d expect), the story of who they all are and what they’re working towards isn’t really established until the fourth episode, “Fun Friend.” The second half of the series is much smoother than the first.
The performances are strong
Overall, this is a character-driven series. You immediately want to root for Jules, but you feel varying degrees of love and annoyance at her friends, in turn. Each character experiences growth in some way, but there’s definitely some backsliding.
Madison starts off as more “career woman” and becomes more “control freak” as time goes on, channeling her energies into her friendships. Meanwhile, Stella’s arc is a strong one, but it leaves you unsure about the future of the character with the series. Izzy sometimes feels as though she’s just there for the work connection/comic relief and doesn’t have a real purpose — you may wonder why did they become friends with her?
The show really succeeds in moments when it fully embraces the humor of the situation, like Stella being drunk as a baby. The dramatic moments do become smoother but feel a bit unrehearsed early on.
What stands out from the trailers for the series is the cat lady (played by Beth Grant, The Mindy Project). She isn’t always a part of them, but the allusions featured in Dollface get smoother as time goes on, and they’re utilized best in the last two episodes. It’s hard not to love the cat lady, but it feels like there was a bit of a struggle with determining how much to use her. The last episode does a good job of bringing that full circle.
Episode 9, titled “Feminist,” is entirely dedicated to a The Wizard of Oz plot. This kind of thing is usually a bit overplayed, but it works well here for a number of reasons, especially as it becomes apparent that this is something they were building to throughout the previous eight episodes.
What’s frustrating about ‘Dollface’
There was one element that really stood out as a bit frustrating. In a show that tries to make it so that we support all women for their differences, the treatment of Jeremy’s new girlfriend (played by Camilla Belle) is kind of derivative. She’s the dumb Instagram model, and it feels a bit off-message for the show to write her off the way it does.
Where ‘Dollface’ shines
Really, above all, the best thing about the show, the aspect that truly defines it, is the power of women. The music? As far as we can tell, nearly all female artists. The characters? Again, mostly women, save for a few cases. The message? We’re past “Women can do it all.”
We’ve moved on to “Women DO do it all, and it’s hard, but we need to keep supporting one another.” It doesn’t feel like “Yeah, see? we’re feminists!” It’s more like “Yes, of course, were feminists, but what’s next? What else can we work on?” And this feels like a great place to be at, TV-wise