neighbors Director Nicholas Stoller meets with rose byrne and seth rogen in Platonic, the compelling new Apple TV+ series that is set to deliver another hit for the popular streamer. Stoller brings along other notable artists he’s collaborated with before, too, for this must-see set, Luke Macfarlane and Guy Branum (both of siblings) among them. The result is refreshing and delicious in the line of will and grace and one last day when harry met sally romantic comedy, but exhilarating to be sure.
You see, middle age is the biggest star of the Stoller story when two old friends, Sylvia and Will (Byrne and Rogen), suddenly find themselves back in each other’s lives more than 15 years after they broke up. This duo is in their mid-forties and their lives have changed considerably since they last got together. In the hands of less skilled directors and showrunners, this story could simply fall flat.
Not here. Francesca Delbanco (Friends from college, forgetting about Sarah Marshall) co-created Platonic with Stoller. The duo strays from the trope of will, they/won’t connect, a strong thread that was woven throughout when harry met sally — and hopefully opt to explore more universal insights about friendships, relationships, midlife career restarts, and how people tend to get distracted from managing their own lives when it all feels too overwhelming. Fun. And in Platonic, really is.
Welcome to your midlife crisis
Sylvia and Will are very different characters. Their once-strong bond of friendship went horribly awry after Sylvia was too “honest” about Will’s relationship, and ultimately marriage, with a woman she didn’t think was a good fit for him. In the present day, Will is licking his wounds from his recent divorce, and after Sylvia sees an Instagram post from Will’s now-ex, she decides to reach out to him. The first meeting of her should strike a universal chord. Time and life circumstances have fractured their once great connection, and in their place, discomfort has set in. Most notable is the very different lifestyle of hers.
Sylvia put her legal career aside to raise a family with Charlie, her husband (Luke Macfarlane gives another great performance). Charlie has just become a partner in his law firm and is kept in check by gay co-worker Stewart (Branum). Meanwhile, Sylvia drives the kids to and from school, enjoying bonding with other frazzled moms. Life is good. It’s constant, but… she feels something is missing.
Will, on the other hand, grief-stricken by his divorce, co-owns a trendy Los Angeles brewery with his now ex-brother-in-law. Between coming up with a bold vision for the new venture and crafting new concoctions, he challenges his ever-watchful siblings, who always weigh in on the mess he’s made of his life. Then comes Sylvia.
A few days after reconnecting, Sylvia drags a friend to Will’s brewery launch, only to bemoan the fact that they could be enjoying good sips at a nearby wine bar and be home by 10 p.m. Hi, middle age. That doesn’t happen, of course, and as the night’s events unfold, Sylvia and Will, like it or not, suddenly find themselves reconnected on a deeper level. It’s like they’ve never been apart, their dialogue key free-flowing and often furious. Something is happening here.
Connected because they are disconnected
Without a doubt, Sylvia and Will, though they are in very different places in their lives and personal development, share something in common: their sudden lack of purpose. Oh, it used to be there, but lately, the light inside has dimmed. Somehow their rekindled friendship is just what they need, but they don’t need. Because the more involved they get, the more they lose in each other, and that just means they’ll spend less time confronting the real changes they need to make in their own lives.
And with that, creators Stoller and Delbanco take the series in an inventive direction because ultimately these two must face it all, difficult as it may be. To that end, this show slightly mirrors another Apple TV+ winner, Contraction, in which a protagonist must face his greatest fears. Like that show Platonic does a good job of extending from its core players, creating a television world that we enjoy immersing ourselves in.
It’s a lot of fun to watch all of this play out. Byrne and Rogen are on the mark. If you enjoyed them in neighbors and its sequel, you’ll enjoy them here in a more grounded departure, which, even when it goes overboard, never feels quite so “over the top.” It is real. And these excellent actors create believable characters to root for.
As for the supporting cast, it sure would be great to see them and learn more about them. However, the screen time given to them is effective. Macfarlane continues to impress as both a leading man and a team player. As Charlie, he elevates a predictable breadwinner role to give us a man/husband open to change, even if he doesn’t understand how to maneuver through it, mainly by confronting the feelings that arise when Sylvia and Will become full friends. mode. Best Line: “I know Will and Sylvia aren’t fucked up, but it almost feels like they’re getting turned on by the fact that they could be fucking king.”
Guy Branum, always a delight, delivers on all fronts here, and Tre Hale (Love and Monsters, Lethal Weapon) offers a good role as Andy, Will’s coworker/beer buddy. Subplots also trickle in here and there, but they never weigh on this show. A nice touch: vivid glimpses of the Los Angeles scene, from its vibrant art and nightlife to its hipster culture.
Finally, Platonic the solid writing and inventive beats give you something to worry about. And laugh at AND with. It certainly gives you something to ponder. It’s all there: life in all its messy, unpredictable glory. Fun. Fun. Tragic. Full of opportunities. Dive in. It’s one of the best new shows of the season.
Platonic premieres May 24 on Apple TV+