The power of female friendship is at the center of Hulu’s newest comedy, Dollface, an often very funny single-camera sitcom starring Kat Dennings, as she journeys through a surreal Los Angeles landscape in the aftermath of an unexpected breakup. Dennings plays Jules, a late-twenty-something Los Angeleno who must rekindle the female friendships she neglected while devoting herself to Jeremy (Connor Hines), the boyfriend who suddenly decides he wants to see other people after several years. That devastating breakup is the impetus for Jules to reconnect with Madison (Brenda Song) and Stella (Shay Mitchell), and to begin a new friendship with the eccentric Izzy (Esther Povitsky), a co-worker at the website Woom, a Goop-like lifestyle brand headed up by Malin Akerman. Though it boasts a terrific cast that amplifies Dennings’ droll comedic stylings, the series, from creator Jordan Weiss, becomes a winner thanks to willingness to get surreal.
The easiest comparison to make is also the most accurate. Those who were a fan of Simon Rich’s Man Seeking Woman will find plenty to like here, especially if that series’ final season, which focused many of its episodes on Katie Findlay’s Lucy, was to their liking. Weiss’ series offers many of the same bizarre, whimsical asides, but does so from a distinctly different perspective — that of a recently jilted young woman who discovers her recently ended relationship left her distanced from far more rewarding friendships.
The series begins when Jeremy dumps Jules at brunch, literally leaving her in the middle of nowhere. Weiss uses the image of Jules being stranded as a bridge to introduce the show’s many, many visual metaphors. Key among them is Cat Lady (Beth Grant), a kind of all-seeing guide who routinely pops up to offer words of advice to Jules as she embarks on the next stage of her life. Though Cat Lady best exemplifies Dollface’s use of visual metaphor and Weiss’ intentions for the series, she is by no means the only surreal device as the show’s disposal. What keeps the series interesting and compelling is the freedom with which it introduces and implements a variety of tools at its disposal, most of which eschew reality in funny, satisfying ways.
Though Dennings is the ostensible star and she brings a welcome offbeat personality to the series, Dollface regards its supporting players more like an ensemble. It’s in these instances that the series shines, as Jules, Madison, Stella, and Izzy continually find new ways to irritate and support one another, all while acknowledging what matters most is their continued friendships. By about the third episode, Dollface reveals itself to be a very funny hangout series, one that makes great use of the varying personalities it has at its disposal.
Though the series is often whip-smart, it does occasionally sketch some of its characters too broadly. This is particularly true of Akerman’s Gwenyth Paltrow-like executive, as well as the vapid women who are her sycophantic underlings. The same is true of Stella in the early going as well, as Dollface paints her as an affluent devil-may-care party girl, only to turn the tables on the audience by insisting she’s much more than that. Though the episode in question goes to great lengths to demonstrate who Stella really is, the end result isn’t nearly as significant or convincing as the show intends.
While Dollface struggles at times to make characters like Stella or Izzy more than mere caricatures, those issues are largely offset by how well-defined Jules and Madison are. Both women could easily carry the show on their own, but are, fittingly, better together. For her part, Song brings a welcome sense of authority to the group, often acting as the glue keeping the group together. It’s smart for Weiss and her writers’ room to make that implicitly Madison’s domain, as Jules is far better suited to being the show’s hot mess who is on a meaningful journey of self-discovery.
In all, Dollface is a welcome addition to Hulu’s growing library of original comedies aimed at adults. It also announces Weiss as a new writer and creator to keep an eye on, as her first major television work not only resulted in one of the best new shows on Hulu in 2019, but it also piqued the interest of Margot Robbie, who serves as one of the series’ executive producers.
Dollface season 1 will stream on Hulu beginning Friday, November 15.