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French Netflix series The Hook Up Plan has returned and while the endless lies are still at the centre of this feel-good comedy, they laboriously fall flat as their instigators get caught up in a messy muddle imprinted with mawkish sentimentality.
Taking place in Paris, season one told the story of 30-year-old Elsa (Zita Hanrot) who was living on her father’s couch and feeling stuck in her life after a break-up. As such, her best friends Charlotte (Sabrina Ouazani) and Emilie (Joséphine Draï) got the incongruous idea to hire professional male escort Jules (Marc Ruchmann) to woo her. The subterfuge was obviously discovered by the protagonist and blew up in everyone’s face at the end. This is how the season ended: the truths unveiled and the characters face-to-face with the consequences of their actions.
The Hook Up Plan focuses on the impact of lies on someone’s life and why we sometimes feel the urge to hide the truth from our loved ones in order to protect them. In the second season, Jules and Elsa are living a hidden romance after the latter lied to her friends, telling them she left to work abroad as she needed some personal space to digest the shocking revelations. This is until the group gets reunited, the misinformation taking over again.
With Jules’ secret revealed, season two had to renew itself while keeping its simple, yet efficient concept: a bunch of Parisian friends living modern romances interlocked with dishonesties. Here, it is Elsa who is at the heart of the convoluted intrigue. While she fears her friends’ opinions about Jules, Charlotte struggles to express her feelings and Emilie goes back and forth about her future wedding. Waiting for the moments of revelation is what keeps the spectator in suspense, and when romance is portrayed with tenderness, cruelty counters it without any delay. These very blunt scenes are depicted head-on, which results in gripping, tense verbal exchanges.
Also modern about The Hook Up Plan is the topics it explores. The plot spotlights technology as another key influence on romantic relationships. We often see texts appearing on screen or funny montages of social media stories. This adds more than welcomed visual stimuli amongst the show’s sometimes flat and boring televisual cinematography and music – the latter purely used in montages of characters going place to place.
The series still manages to feel very refreshing thanks to its candid and clumsy heroine, something quite atypical for the lead in a romantic comedy series. The awkward social situations Elsa finds herself do raise chuckles – for example, a job interview where the employer only talks in one-word sentences to limit his carbon footprint. Meanwhile, the psycho-rigid Emile and big mouth Charlotte are also both extremely charismatic. Together, the central trio have great chemistry, adding a punchy rhythm to the narrative – if to the season’s detriment series stand-out Charlotte has less to do this time around.
Even with all these positive elements though, the series’ accumulation of over-the-top lies to build narrative suspense can dishearten the spectator, with some feeling unjustified. In this cacophony of dishonesty, characters also victimise themselves in a melodramatic overly sentimental way. Yes, The Hook Up Plan is a romantic comedy series, but it lacks internal logic, with the plot of the second season consisting of unsure people randomly changing their mind about everything and nothing.
The Hook Up Plan is still a diverting light watch thanks to its fun central trio and Paris setting. However, it’s hard not to feel like this series already said all it needed to first time around.