One of my goals for the new year is to keep watch for media, novels, and personal stories that reveal true experiences of midlife women. They’re tough to find!
As a writer, I’m drawn to film and television that tell stories in new ways. As a midlife woman, I long for protagonists who defy the tropes of our youth-obsessed culture. I’m happy to report that the Hulu series Fleishman Is In Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner dives creatively into the conflicts that many of us experience in midlife.
A quote from the series’ female creator
In the creator’s words, Fleishman is “a story about middle age and marriage and divorce, and getting older and nostalgia and lifelong friendship, and parenting and career and ambition. There’s no category of middle-class, middle-life that it isn’t about. But ultimately, Fleishman is a story about storytelling.”
Featuring midlife men & women
And good storytelling this series is. The story opens with divorced Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg) in his New York City apartment, his on-screen world turned upside-down. He has two children with his ex-wife Rachel Fleishman (Claire Danes), and soon into the story, Rachel goes missing, leaving Toby to care for his two children by himself. The mother’s disappearance brings an immediate tension to the series, one that mothers will feel deeply.
What makes this series unique is it’s shifting point of view—from Toby to Rachel and then to Toby’s good friend Libby (Lizzy Caplan), whose voice narrates the series. Libby is questioning her own marriage and midlife choices. Through this shifting narration, the creator brilliantly turns a story about midlife into one of greater nuance, poignancy, and artistry.
No spoilers here, but an honest take
As someone who divorced in my forties, I found the series sometimes stressful to watch. I also found myself irritated with the characters’ self-absorption. These are privileged protagonists with first-world problems. They’re well drawn though, flawed and at times unlikeable. The creator did this intentionally of course—setting stakes that allow the viewer to see the challenges and choices in midlife starkly.
As a writer looking back at the whole series, I can’t help but wish the creator switched the point of view faster to the mother Rachel, and then to Toby’s friend, Libby—to round out the story sooner. Ultimately though, I’m glad I stayed with the series of eight episodes because it ends hopefully, even with a glimmer of grace. If you’re looking for a well-told story, one that reflects realities of midlife, Fleishman Is in Trouble delivers.
If you’d like to read more more midlife media reviews (among other posts for midlife women), please sign up below.