Platonic Review | Meet Your New BFFs

by Andrew Parker

Making the most out of its perfectly paired leads, Platonic is a satisfying summer comedy that carves its own path rather than adhering to convention. Created by real life partners Nicholas Stoller (Bros, The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Francesca Delbanco, Platonic is a series that always hints at its overall intentions without making them the centrepiece of the show. At its heart, Platonic is trying to answer the age old question of whether or not men and women can simply be friends divorced of romantic feelings, but mostly it’s just about what it says on the tin: friends being friends, for better and for worse.

Sylvia (Rose Byrne) hasn’t heard from her former best friend, Will (Seth Rogen), in years. The rift began as soon as Sylvia admitted to Will on his wedding day that the woman he was about to marry was all wrong for him. Since they’ve stopped speaking, Sylvia has fully abandoned her law practice to be a stay-at-home mom to three kids, while her husband, Charlie (Bros stand-out Luke Macfarlane), works as an attorney. Sylvia gets wind through social media that Will – now overseeing operations at a trendy brewery – is getting a divorce. They agree to meet for coffee, and even though their first reconnection is a bit tetchy, the ice starts melting and they begin hanging out again. Soon, Sylvia is staying out all hours of the night with Will, having fun and getting into trouble.

Outside of the opening episode that establishes Will and Sylvia’s decades long closeness, Platonic has a pleasing formula. Every episode, one of the friends will experience a life crisis or major event of some sort (work troubles, romantic hang-ups, work retreats, house hunting, finding babysitters, divorce parties), they’ll call the other one to help or hang out, frustrations will be vented (often over copious amounts of alcohol or other substances), and eventually they’ll work through the problem together. It’s a winning playbook because Stoller and Delbanco (who trade off writing and directing duties across their collaboration here) ensure that every plot line enhances the lives and relationships of the characters rather than putting them into seemingly random situations. Viewers will always be wondering if there is a romantic spark between Will and Sylvia, but they’ll be easily distracted by the richness of their day to day lives.

Will and Sylvia aren’t perfect people, and sometimes they can act horribly to each other and everyone around them, which is why it’s important to have seasoned leads with proven chemistry to make their viewer want to keep watching their life adventures. It’s a chip shot for Stoller, who reunites his Neighbors stars Rogen and Byrne to outstanding effect. Byrne remains one of the most underrated performers in the world today, capable of bouncing back and forth between droll witticisms, over-the-top physical comedy, and heartbreaking drama without cracking a sweat. Her performance as Sylvia is full of energy and life, despite the fact that her character is understandably a very tired person. Rogen, on the other hand, continues to evolve as a performer, playing Will as equal parts likeable, elder millennial hipster stereotype and passionately creative non-conformist. Rogen’s Will is a man at war with himself; both laid back and happy go lucky in his private life, while simultaneously making the lives of his more capitalist minded business partners (Tre Hale, Andrew Lopez) a living hell with his refusal to meet them halfway between making good products and turning a profit. 

Rogen and Byrne get each other’s approach so well that their pairing becomes one for the ages, with Platonic serving as an even better showcase of their chemistry than their previous team-ups. They make the viewer effortlessly believe their shared history, petty annoyances, and longstanding grievances because they possess a shorthand that feels lived-in and never forced. Rogen and Byrne are given sharp writing to start with, but this show is truly magical because of what they can bring to it that isn’t expressly on the page. Their acting partnership taps into something so intangible, viewers will feel like they’ve known Sylvia and Will their entire lives, even if they don’t have any friends remotely like them and regardless or if they like them very much at all when these characters are at their lowest, neediest points.

Stoller and Delbanco offer plenty of great supporting parts for equally capable performers, too, most notably rising star Macfarlane, who balances a sense of good natured goofiness with a palpable need to be loved by a wife his character sees slipping away. Hale paints a picture of slowly fracturing poise as Rogen’s increasingly stressed out business partner, while Lopez rather delicately depicts the brewery’s trend happy, crypto-bro angel investor without too much of sneer to appear cartoonish. Scene stealers are found in the form of Vinny Thomas (as the brewery’s resident oddball employee), Carla Gallo (as Sylvia’s closest female friend), Emily Kimball (as Will’s considerably younger girlfriend), and Macfarlane’s fellow Bros standout Guy Branum as one of Charlie’s co-workers and closest friends.

Together, the cast and creatives of Platonic tap into not only exhaustively explored questions about the nature of heteronormative male-female friendships, but also into a sense of middle aged malaise for a generation of people who are too young to be classified as Gen-X and are on the furthest outskirts of being considered millennials. This aspect of Platonic is so strong and well observed that most viewers wont mind that any potential romantic underpinnings are played at the slowest burn possible. Sylvia and Will are easily identifiable (though not always perfectly loveable) characters in a rich, familiar, easily relatable world. They want to have fun, but they’re slowly redefining what it means to to be social and figuring things out together. Even if nothing happens between Sylvia and Will romantically, it’s still nice to see that they’ve found each other again after years apart. Platonic is a fun show with a nice balance of brains, jokes, and emotional pitfalls, that will make people want to schedule some much needed hangs with their closest bestie.

The first three episodes of Platonic premiere on Apple TV+ starting Wednesday, May 24, 2023, with new episodes releasing in the following weeks.

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