Format: Web Series
Perhaps the best, most identifiable stories for the screen come from your own life. That’s why comedian Mae Martin’s ‘Feel Good,’ which dropped on Netflix earlier today, feels like your own story. She draws on instances that have happened to her to give us an emotional and ultimately fulfilling look at the comedy and drama of life and relationships. She is a ‘recovering’ addict who was thrown out of her parents’ home due to cocaine overdose. Eventually, she moved from Canada to London, attempting to make a life for herself as a stand-up comic while dealing with rehab. In this somewhat fictional take, she finds herself falling in love with the formerly straight George (Charlotte Ritchie), and as their relationship progresses, we often see their star-crossed romance used by Mae for her material both on stage and within her support group. Over the course of six short episodes,‘Feel Good’ builds up to be a supremely well-crafted comedy about the absurdity of modern love and unlikely connections, and how it all seamlessly comes together to make us feel something raw and real.
Mae and George are two ends of a spectrum. Mae doesn’t believe in giving her orientation, her gender or her identity any labels. George is dating a woman for the first time, and is struggling to share the details of her new romance with friends and family. Mae is impulsive and enjoys every pursuit with a fleeting but obsessive passion. George is practical and reserved. The relationship that the two women share is the flawed but heartfelt core of Feel Good. Martin and co-creator Joe Hampson deftly navigate themes like gender identity and the aftermath of addiction and use Mae and George’s connection as a basis to delve deeper.
If you are familiar with Martin’s defiantly original sense of humour, Feel Good is bound to be refreshing. Her impassive delivery and understanding to the world around her entirely makes for the show’s obvious comedy. The neuroticism in her body language adds to the show’s natural frenzy in pacing. In addition, Feel Good really plays off on the crackling chemistry between her and George. But the real strength is the writing of the characters and the actors who play them, often being funny in the most lackadaisical way, even when not intentioning to do so: Charlotte Ritchie (whom you may recall as a series regular on Call the Midwife) deals with her newfound sexuality with her colleagues and friends, the well-meaning roommate Phil, Mae’s NA sponsor Maggie who is dealing with her own broken relationships, just to name a few. A lot of Mae’s emotional instability comes from her relationship with her mother, played by Lisa Kudrow. Kudrow appears on video call in most of the show (like a throwback to Web Therapy) but adds the same caustic hilarity to her character as we’ve seen recently in shows like The Comeback.
Amidst all the comedy, Feel Good is also about facing the reality of many issues that often plague relationships. A lot of the drama comes from Mae and George’s conflicts, and some that Mae has brewing within herself. It is precisely the kind of realism you expect from a contemporary show, but if you take the title ‘Feel Good’ on face value, that emotion may not always come through. The show starts of a bit slow so that it can go deeper into queer and addiction issues as it progresses. And aside from the natural chemistry of the ensemble cast, this might be exhausting if the subject matter does not interest you.
It is very evident that Feel Good has been written with a lot of sensitivity towards queer issues and comes from a deeply personal story. Dealing with your own sense of self, beyond just gender and sexuality, isn’t just thrust into the narrative as much as it is part of Mae’s life. The way the people around her understand it (some with their nonchalant homophobia) is handled boldly and honestly as well. Having said that, not everything that Mae does warrants sympathy and she is often scrutinized for the wreckage she causes. Even then, we learn to root for her in a way which feels like we are embracing her growth as a person.
Music and Other Departments:
Mae often hears a high-pitch sound in her ears at pivotal moments in the show, sometimes when she feels herself relapsing, representing what she often tells her support group - addiction never leaves the addict. This interesting effect and the show’s use of mostly subtle sound and realistic visuals have been used to juxtapose harsh reality which is dealt with a surreal perspective.
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes! There’s a lot to learn from Feel Good. It is about many flawed but real people who are, in their own way, failing but keep trying hard to rebuild their world. And that is precisely the kind of hope we need from television these days.
Would I Recommend It?
For sure. It goes by like a breeze once you connect to Mae. If it’s a good-natured and charming dramedy that you are wanting to watch, look no further.
Rating: 4/5 Stars