The Sex Lives of College Girls (HBO Max) Review: Mindy Kaling Hits

The HBO Max series turns a quadrant of coming-of-age stories into happy workplace comedy.

Coming of age stories usually take place in adolescence, long before most of us come of age; sometimes a series resumes in the moments after graduation from college. “The Sex Lives of College Girls” takes that rarely captured holding pen separating childhood from the rest of life and skillfully sums up its ubiquitous truths: that freshman friendships are largely accidents of dorm geography, and that , no matter how determined you are to ditch your high school character on move-in day, you can’t escape your own bones – at least not when you come home.

Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble’s new HBO comedy Max follows four companions in a row since their first day at leafy Essex College, an elite New England liberal arts school with enough arrows to remind the alma maters of the creators of the series (Dartmouth and Yale, respectively). Leighton, played by Broadway Regina George, Reneé Rapp, is an upscale posh snob. Pauline Chalamet (Timothée’s sister) is Kimberly, a scholarship student with insecurities as oppressive as her FAFSA loan. Alyah’s Whitney Chanelle Scott is a varsity athlete whose U.S. senator mother overshadows her arrival on campus, and Bela, played by Amrit Kaur, is a New Jersey native as keen on comedy as she is shedding constraints. curators of his Desi education. The mysteries of the venue allocation process give the quartet a mismatched plausibility, and the easy chemistry of the actors does the rest. I can see them already in 10 years, maybe at Whitney’s wedding, thanking the campus gods for forcing their Popov vodka out of the same mini-fridge.

Because as much as “The Sex Lives of College Girls” is about sex, it’s not about sex at all. Each girl is a collage of the types of girls that you will find on those types of campuses. I was a restless Kimberly who wanted to be a Whitney; my freshman roommate is the coolest Whitney I’ve ever met to date. Interestingly, for all of the Gen Z-specific sexual positivity of the show, watching her as a millennial was a nostalgic rather than revealing experience – a timeless counterpoint to shows like “Euphoria” or even, in one. lesser extent, the “Gossip Girl” restart. The girls’ sensibility is right now, yes, but their ordeals, at least through the six episodes available for critics, are the mixed classics: breaking up with your high school sweetheart, disappointing your parents, that weird smell that emanates from the common room. .

Reneé Rapp and Rob Huebel in “The Sex Life of Students”

David Giesbrecht / HBO Max

Which doesn’t mean girls don’t have sex. They want to have it, and they have it, and, when they do, they generally feel positive about it. But the show is more tender and compelling when it cleverly cuts the sex off and deals with the harsh realities of desire itself. Horndog Bela’s insistent desire to be a part of Essex’s comedy troupe sees her confronted with the misogyny she will have to endure to get it. Kimberly has the constant, low-level pain of not fitting in and Whitney, in the show’s less imaginative storyline, pursues a secret relationship with her trainer. Having sex is the easiest part in this ivy-clad parentless oasis. The rest is an obstacle course.

Except maybe for Leighton, who gets the most complex arc in the series. During the day, the heritage student also poses directly for the crowd in tweed sororities; at night she accesses lesbian dating apps. “The Sex Lives of College Girls” examines her dilemma holistically: maintaining the facade, for example, makes her bitchy to her roommates. The conflict is conspicuously in her sex life, but the cost of her secret isn’t the loss of romantic love – it’s missing the intimacy of friendship. The performances of the central quartet are all solid, but Rapp’s nervous Leighton stands out. It doesn’t hurt that she gets the most cut lines, although Bela will surely win the biggest laughs. Kaur plays his sexual obsession as a form of dizzying rebellion. She wants sex like a kid chaotically wants what’s on the top shelf, whatever.

Well done and propulsive, the series makes me wonder why more shows don’t take place in that liminal space between prom and first jobs. “The Sex Lives of College Girls” keeps things light. No one is bedridden by homesickness; no one is too intimidated to show up at the fellowship party in the first place. In some ways, Kaling and Noble approached the college campus less as a navel bildungsroman than a workplace comedy – unsurprisingly from two writers who collectively worked on “The Office,” “The Mindy. Project “and” Brooklyn Nine -New. ” Bela, Leighton, Whitney and Kimberly each have their own clear lanes. Instead of fighting in groups, the conflicts at play are the small dramas of closed worlds, where banalities like flirting on social networks and wearing the right outfit take on disproportionate importance. The joy of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” does not come from seeing roommates become friends, but seeing them already do so – leaning on each other and borrowing from each other with quick familiarity. like lightning it takes in a dorm room to generate.

Rating: B +

“The Sex Lives of College Girls” premieres its first two episodes Thursday, November 18 on HBO Max. Three new episodes will be released on November 25 and December 2, leading up to the final two episodes of the season on December 9.

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