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Midlife’s Moment: “On the Verge” Explores Womanhood at the Midpoint

Julie Delpy's Netflix show "On the Verge," with its decidedly anti-fashion sentiment, is one of the most authentic style portrayals of women in their late 40s and early 50s that I have ever seen on screen.

Are midlife women having a moment? It would appear so. Or I need to go out more.

Because I have another show to talk about that’s focused on women of a certain age. If you have not yet watched all 12 episodes of Netflix’s “On The Verge,” put down your knitting/baking/Aperol spritzing and tune in. It’s delightful and poignant and funny as hell. 

Created, written, and directed by Julie Delpy, the show tells the story of four female friends in their late 40s and early 50s in sunny Los Angeles. Delpy plays the fabulously French Justine, a wife, mom, and chef du jour. Elisabeth Shue, who I have always adored, plays Anne, a family money-rich hippie living in Venice. The show also stars Sarah Jones as Yasmin, a Venice-dwelling neurotic type with a past, and Alexia Landeau as Ell, a single mom of three just looking to get by however she can (hilarity ensues).

First, this ain’t no Sex and the City-style disco. Because it’s LA, and the dance is more hippie sway than Cosmopolitan clink.

LA plays a significant role in the series, and as someone who has spent enough time there to “get it,” I think it captures the city very well. (Come at me, 310. Come at me). The beautiful light, the casual mixed with a super neurotic vibe, the bohemian weirdos with expensive haircuts and strong views on politics and composting.

One of the most authentic style portrayals of women in their late 40s and early 50s that I have ever seen on screen

But besides the bougie boho backdrop, I love the decidedly anti-fashion sentiment of the show that, in a way, makes it one of the most authentic style portrayals of women in their late 40s and early 50s that I have ever seen on screen.

Because it’s rare to see women with bodies that have enjoyed love and hope and sex and dreams, and I adore that these women are not skeletons or overly anything. They just look like women. Women trying to figure out busy careers, flaccid relationships, and making their way through motherhood in the modern world.

And for all of that, you’re going to need an effortless way of dressing that is slightly disheveled mixed with idon’tgiveashit in the best of possible ways. (Has this pandemic taught us anything?) Like when you know you need a new bra, but you still love your favorite old lace one with the holes, and even though it makes your button-down gap a little bit, it’s comfortable and that’s what counts. 

That said, nobody on this show is clattering around in Manolos or serving major looks. None of the women are gray-haired ladies, but they also are not overly coiffed. Their hair is natural in texture and slightly messy in the best of lived-in ways. And there’s nary a statement handbag in sight.

Because rather than a Birkin, Elisabeth Shue’s character accessorizes with a vape (the weed kind) and is always in a flowy hippie something or other, while Delpy is the delightfully askew French woman who dresses a bit like a Parisian Annie Hall with adorably outsized glasses. Yasmin is the Abbot Kinney mom with an edge and a cargo pant, and Ell is a bit of a scrapper in Cali tomboy chic, possibly still wearing a Billabong sweatshirt she’s had since college.  What’s clear is this is not a show about fashion. This is a show about life.

What’s clear is this is not a show about fashion. This is a show about life

Is it a bit entitled and shows women of privilege trying to redefine their lives? Sure. Is it more than slightly vapid? Yup.

But is seeing a show about female friendship at this point in my life that shows women that look like real beautiful women delightful? Yes. Yes, it is. I give Delpy massive props for putting this show together. She has always been an excellent combination of sexy, cerebral, and silly all at once. And since she starred alongside Ethan Hawke back in the ’90s in some of the most memorable romantic movies of all time, she has a place in many of our cold, cynical hearts. She’s lovable as a beleaguered chef “on the verge.”

But when it comes to the men on this show, there seems to be a significant problem with what’s on the menu.

Besides the children, who are all adorable and charmingly irreverent, the men are loathsome. One shred of DNA from full baboon status. The French husband is a narcissistic misogynist. Shue’s dude is an overgrown baby with no direction home. Ell has three baby daddies, none of them that interesting or reliable. (You know it’s bad when the hottest and most dynamic guy on the show is “sans home.” And Yasmin, who is the most loathsome woman on the show, has the most agreeable husband of all. Go figure.

Long may we live, love, and surround ourselves with women who get us better than anyone else

The show is fast-paced and fun to watch, with plenty of LA sunshine and midlife pitfalls and perils. And through it all is the delight of female friendship. Long may we live, love, and surround ourselves with women who get us better than anyone else.

My big takeaway from the show has much to do with its title. Because with families and career snafus and not a ton of passion left for much of anything, the late 40s and early 50s can feel a bit “on the verge.” But if you give that a Pollyanna spin, you can also say not just on the verge of a breakdown, but perhaps more on the verge of a breakthrough, non? Oui. XO

1 COMMENT

  1. Sheri, you continue to delight with your take on so many things. This sound like a hilariously real take on 50+. I know half the day I think, you can’t make this shxt up with what goes on at work. When I am in my studio painting I think I should just go all in with my painting… Needless to say I am always on the verge of a new perspective! I guess that is what 50+ is, don’t care what most people think, just doing me..

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Sheri Radel Rosenberghttp://sherimavenblog.com/
Sheri Radel Rosenberg has spent a life in advertising. Currently she's a freelance writer focusing on women at midlife and the power of reinvention. She regularly writes on her own blog and also works with brands to develop content in the areas of women's health, wellness, fashion, and beauty .She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a ten pound ball of doggie fluff called Khan.

 

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