After the surprisingly good Assassination Nation, I was excited to see with what will Sam Levinson come up next. His film blended social commentary with heightened reality, making it enjoyable to see those characters as they offered a dark mirror to our society. Euphoria takes place in high-school again, but there is no heightened reality this time. It promised to “faithfully represent the modern teenage experience”. It is overflowing with style, but you’d have a hard time finding something of substance in Euphoria.
The show follows Rue (Zendaya), a drug addict in high-school. We witness as her addiction shaped herself and the people around her. She’s a loner, whose only friend is her drug dealer. However, as school starts she befriends a new student, Jules (Hunter Schafer). Their friendship is what holds the show together. I loved seeing them interact, even when they weren’t doing anything.
The other students never get the same understanding treatment as Rue or Jules. Despite having backstories at the beginning of each episode, they are very one-dimensional. Nate (Jacob Elordi) is an aggressive jock. Maddy (Alexa Demie) is the pretty cheerleader who only cares about herself. Rue’s mom (Nika King) and her sister (Storm Reid) are sad. Kat (Barbie Ferriera) is the confident girl on the outside, insecure on the inside. They are the high-school stereotypes that have been around since the 80s, only updated for today.
The show feels as if the writers tried to understand what young people do nowadays while they were writing it. From their POV, it seems that all they do is party, fuck, blackmail, take drugs and fuck. Yeah, there’s a lot of fucking on the show. I’m supposed to be the generation that Euphoria represents and yet it never explores what makes this one different from those that came before. Just adding smartphones is not enough.
That said, Euphoria is the most gorgeous show of 2019. Visually, every piece of it is stunning. It is shot beautifully, especially during the many night scenes or party scenes. The make-up and wardrobe are some of my favourite aspects of the show, as they actually understand the current trends. In this case, the clothing is a storytelling device that tells us about the characters in a way they never would. As for the music, it combines EDM, hip-hop and some throwback songs that make it feel timely, yet timeless at the same time.
Euphoria has been labeled as a controversial show, but not much that happens actually is. It tries to be provocative by being shocking, which results in a momentary surprise, that will be forgotten by the time the next episode rolls around. And when the finale ends, you realise there isn’t much that makes the show stand out in the long-time.
In a certain way, Euphoria reached its goal of social commentary. Like many things we are exposed to nowadays, it holds little to no value. Euphoria is a beautiful, yet empty shell that never delves beneath the surface to actually explore the behaviour of the young people its supposed to be representing.