How are we able to find satisfaction in disaster? Even worse, how are we able to invert the worst of situations into comedic gold? Are we that apathetic or that desperate for happiness? I clearly don’t know as you can tell from all the questions I’ve posed and to be honest I don’t even think Phoebe-Waller Bridge knows, on the flip side, she recognizes how fucked we are and takes commands of that that blurry line between comedy and tragedy, tuning it to perfection.
Based on a play Bridge had previously written, Fleabag thrusts into the mess that is Fleabag’s life. She’s not addicted to sex and doesn’t necessarily find pleasure in the act, she’s isn’t a melancholic ghoul roaming London, she’s a woman in crisis and somehow that’s even worse than the previous descriptions. Its funny to think Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes was released shortly after Fleabag because Fleabag did what Allen was trying to do so much better. As I said before, Phoebe-Waller Bridge understands the fucked state we live in embodies it in the lead role. Fleabag isn’t sex-crazed or willingly destructive, but by molding her worldview based on how fucked we act, she makes herself a vessel of the destructive, sexual, and pervasive connotations the word fuck signifies. The entirety of Fleabag could be boiled down to a simple pronoun-verb sentence: She fucks.
Maybe that doesn’t sound that appealing, but why do we watch videos of people falling and hitting themselves against walls? Why was Judd Apatow able to make Trainwreck? That’s because we enjoy watching train-wrecks, we find some twisted sense of joy in the downfall and catastrophes of others. As sour as that may seem, we must also remember that we always finish watching the video to see if the guy who idiotically got himself hurt stands up or if the victims of the car crash were able to be carried away from an ambulance. We might not mention it or focus on said aspect, but we never forget it because if we did we’re nothing more than masochists. Now that, that’s what Fleabag is really about. Fleabag is about a woman confronting crisis and although she self-referentially pokes fun at her miserable state, there comes a point were simply being sardonic doesn’t cut it and you actually have to accept your crisis in order to overcome it.
As for Phoebe-Waller Bridge, she’s a revelation. She’s something else and Fleabag is her baby, a pure embodiment of her many talents including her takes on comedy, tragedy, and all the other genres that fall in between. Being based on a play, Fleabag has a really uniquely cinematic air to it, even the brevity of the show makes it feel like you just watched a really long movie consisting of six different chapters. The surrounding cast that is usually reduced to adjective-derived names actually consists of excellently well-rounded characters all given their own unique spin by the different character actors that inhabit them. I sincerely can’t believe I hadn’t stumbled upon this earlier because it truly is remarkable in ever way, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a genius and although harsh, we clearly need a reminder of how fucked our world is, and what better way to be reminded than with Bridge’s signature use of clever levity.