© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Audrey Kupferberg: Grace And Frankie

In the opening episode of GRACE AND FRANKIE, one of Netflix’s most touted new series, one of the characters talks about “a very exciting chapter we’re opening in the book of life.”  From this and other lines of dialog, one would never think to attribute the life change to seventy year olds.  But seventy-somethings they are!  GRACE AND FRANKIE is a story that focuses on two women who have been living an affluent California lifestyle for forty years-- forty years of unremarkable married life. 

Suddenly, life explodes.   A bombshell hits!  Their husbands, Robert and Sol, have been law partners for forty years.  Now Sol explains that they are “homosexual law and bed partners.”  Now they will divorce their wives and get married to each other.  All this, mind you, occurs in the first five minutes of episode 1.  All-together, there are thirteen ½ hour episodes of programming which deal with the repercussions of this announcement.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play the two women; Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are the husbands.  With actors of this caliber, the viewer expects a first-rate show.  That’s exactly what GRACE AND FRANKIE turns out to be.  In fact, it’s superb entertainment.

It’s a show for today.  The septuagenarians and their grown children are characters with upscale contemporary concerns.  They live on their cell phones.   They reside in lovely suburban homes and co-own a luxurious beach house.  Some of the characters find escape in illegal drugs, others find comfort in alcohol or prescription drugs. They use explicit language. 

The richness of storyline might have dried up by episode 3, but for the fairly consistent high quality of writing.  The situations go a bit downhill in a couple late episodes, but keep watching.   Overall, the dialog is sharp and telling:  At one point, Jane Fonda as Grace notes of her husband’s lifestyle, “I didn’t see it.  Am I that self-involved?” … to which her sister-in-law replies, “No, honey, he’s that opaque.”   At another point, Grace laments, “I did everything right.  I raised his children.  I shopped with his mother…”  

Grace is a style- and weight-conscious, finicky woman who has successfully developed a health industry-related company.  Frankie is an aging but still adventuresome hippie and spiritualist who teaches art to ex-cons and occasionally fills the air with incense. 

Fonda and Tomlin are two actors who transition from drama to comedy with ease.  One moment, they are desperate women lost in their dilemmas, the next they are Martin and Lewis! 

Meanwhile, Robert and Sol are living together as a couple for the first time in their long relationship.  That isn’t an easy adjustment, either.  As we age, we tend to think that life gets more settled, more predictable.  Maybe it did a generation or two ago.  Maybe we just think that it did.

GRACE AND FRANKIE gives us an intelligent and entertaining look at seniors who are coping with extraordinary upheaval.  As this series unfolds, nobody really hates anyone and nobody has the power to destroy what simply will be their new life.  In an America of affluence, everyone should live as they please—get what they want.  No? What occurs is a very sincere attempt to recover from a state of absolute loss to be able to live in peace and be happy, too! 

All 13 episodes of GRACE AND FRANKIE are available now on Netflix.

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and appraiser. She teaches film studies at the University at Albany and has co-authored several entertainment biographies with her husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content