Pretend It’s a City review – a warm and enthusiastic look at New York an apple a day

January 8, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Reviews
3.5

Summary

Fran Lebowitz paints a funny portrait of New York City with the help of her unique perspective and some beloved names.

Previous EpisodeView allNext Episode
3.5

Summary

Fran Lebowitz paints a funny portrait of New York City with the help of her unique perspective and some beloved names.

Nobody from New York has ever been shy about telling people they’re from New York, which is probably just as well for the purposes of Martin Scorsese. Not content, apparently, with being one of our greatest living filmmakers, he’s also making a push to be one of the greatest living New Yorkers with Pretend It’s a City, a seven-part exploration of the city through the unique perspective of Fran Lebowitz. It’s a bit indulgent, sure, but also warm and funny and interesting, and a bit more accessible and charming than the snootier collection of conversations, 2010’s Public Speaking, that Scorsese and Ted Griffin made with Lebowitz for HBO.

If Public Speaking was an introduction to Lebowitz, Pretend It’s a City, a title taken from a snarky remark to milling tourist crowds, is a second date. It’s more personal in that sense, interspersing footage from Q&A events and sit-down interviews with walking tours of notable spots in New York City that she loves and loathes. But the interviews seem less candid as they become more wide-ranging, more about New York itself than Lebowitz, which I suppose is the point. The episodes, well-shot by Ellen Kuras and loosely themed around certain broad topics related in one way or another to Lebowitz, are at least chock full of potent one-liners and observations, cracking a window into Lebowitz’s personality if not necessarily throwing the door wide open.

That’s fair enough, I say, and probably better for the audience. I wouldn’t even spend three and a half straight hours with one of my own friends, and while they admittedly don’t have the same kind of stories or cultural A-lister connections, the principle is the same. Spend so long in conversation and the chat’s going to get a bit tiresome. Nobody, it turns out, is an endless font of searing wit, even Fran Lebowitz, though she’s closer than most.

I do worry about her, though, and I imagine if she wasn’t a charismatic public intellectual more people would. At a certain point determinedly refusing to get with the times in terms of having a phone or a social media profile or quitting smoking despite the fact it’ll almost certainly kill you if you do it for long enough is less being principled and more being daft. There’s a poetic sort of irony to the fact that a few years from now, nobody like her will exist. I suppose that’s a fitting enough testament to the value of Lebowitz’s perspective.

Previous EpisodeView allNext Episode

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.