From Scratch is the kind of elevated romantic escapism that’s difficult to create and too easily dismissed. Seasoned with moments of wonderful humor, beautiful romance, and a few gut punches along the way, this Netflix adaptation of Tembi Locke’s memoir is a series that makes you appreciate what you have and long for what you don’t.
Our review of the Netflix series From Scratch season 1 does not contain spoilers.
There are some shows that get under your skin and offer you such a wide variety of emotions you cannot help but fall for them. The type of show that gives you those feel-good emotions while also offering you that good plaintive cry. Well, maybe even two. The Netflix adaptation of the New York Times bestseller From Scratch is that series, unashamed to mildly manipulate and offer a healthy amount of sugarcoating of very serious issues. However, one thing you cannot argue with is just how entertaining the entire experience can be, which is a credit to charismatic leads and a deep bench of talented actors.
Based on the memoir From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, the story follows Amahle “Amy” Wheeler (Zoe Saldaña), an American law student who just wanted to do something fun. Amy takes time off from law school to study art in Florence. Her experience would even make Elizabeth Barrett Browning blush as the young woman finally opens herself up to life’s experiences. A mecca of European art, culture, and politics, she wants to take in Renaissance art, architecture, and monuments. Of course, her new friend and boss, Sloane (Ruby Kammer), tells Amy that the city is more than just guidebooks. What’s a girl to do? Sloane says taking on a lover should be fun.
And she does. Amy meets a young, handsome, wealthy local named Giancarlo (Giacomo Gianniotti), a man who struts around looking like a young Victor Garber and sits around coffee shops, signaling to baristas he will pick up the check of any American art student he finds attractive. Don’t get me wrong; this is excellent work if you can get it. Giancarlo is like an all-access pass to the Florence art scene and seems to have an inordinate amount of free time during the day. Yet, he’s not an artist or a creator; the man is a collector of beautiful things.
But Amy meets another man by chance with funny shoes and a fondness for wild goats. His name is Lino (Eugenio Masteandrea), the very definition of Italian tall, dark, and handsome. A chef at a local spot, he immediately takes a shine to Amy. Lino is an artist himself, but his palette is pieces of fine white china. He cooks a sensational meal for her. We are talking about so much food here that a Vegas buffet would close down for the day. No matter, the heat between Lino and Amy is apparent. These two cannot ignore each other’s lecherous gazes between each sensuous course the entire time.
That’s your basic setup in From Scratch, from series creators and sisters, Edgar Allen Poe winner Attica (Bluebird, Bluebird) and Tembi Locke, whose beloved memoir the story is based. The show is aimed to entertain, seasoned with moments of humor, romance, and gut punches. Besides a lovely performance from the series lead Saldaña, the secret weapon may be the series’ deep bench. Masteandrea’s Lino has a wonderfully dry delivery, significantly when the series shifts to a fish out of water dramedy. Then again, the invaluable Keith David, who plays Amy’s father, Hershel, is so good here in his arc from blunt assertiveness, hilarious needling, and cowboy hat strutting, skeptical father-in-law to Lino’s surrogate patriarch. The series will make any fan of the genre swoon while being romantic, even sexy, very funny, and offering tears of joy and sorrow.
One criticism would be the romance between Lino and Amy can be grounded while still a bit pie in the sky. However, the series is always entertaining and hits that sweet spot when the families interact. Tembi and Attica Locke seem to specialize in the culture clash as a storytelling tool to show how families form and even come together. Netflix’s From Scratch is a romance that looks at life through rose-colored glasses, including scenes of happiness, romance, intimacy, and, yes, even when things turn more serious.
This being a memoir, I guess I cannot question some of the issues with the script. Yet, they have plenty of classic cliches. One of them is money, which is not a relatively easily solvable issue. There’s the top of giving up a prestige career like law school to create art, which is too often not based in reality. Then there are some issues with dialogue and how a small child can speak eloquently constructed sentences talking about her mother’s “husband,” which was strange. Or even the haunting facts of palliative care can be washed over here. (Anyone who saw the film Our Friend or was involved in hospice care can attest to these realities). This is a type of elevated escapism that most of us don’t have the luxury of having. The type of financial, family, and social support can be hard to come by.
Tembi and Attica Locke take those worries and choose to look at these issues with a positive attitude despite when things become challenging. Their series is easy on the eyes, from the settings, beautiful cast, and mouth-watering food. (Which, unfortunately, takes a back seat in the last three episodes). The series is a celebration of life and accepting one’s existence full circle that makes you appreciate what you have and long for what you don’t. The writing is peppered with moments and sensations that make our silly little lives worth living no matter where they lead.
Like life itself. Just not most of yours or mine.
What did you think of Netflix’s From Scratch season 1? Comment below.