Single Drunk Female Review: Sofia Black-D’Elia shines

Sofia Black-D'Elia stars in Single Drunk Female

Sofia Black-D’Elia stars in Single Drunk Female
Photo: Elizabeth Sisson/Free Form

Drunken acting is hard to do. For every amazing Mads Mikkelsen in another round Where Richard E. Grant in Withnail & me, there’s an actor hammering away – rocking from side to side and mouthing every other word. Fortunately, at all levels, the drunk acting in Drunk single woman falls into this last category.

Sofia Black-D’Elia leads an incredible 10 episodes, selling every moment of Samantha’s story as a woman with high-level alcoholism rebuilding her life. When the series begins, Samantha is working as a writer for a New York news outlet called Bzzzz, showing up late to meetings and drinking vodka straight from a water bottle. When her boss (played by the always hilarious Jon Glaser) confronts her, Black-D’Elia mine laughs in the moment, downplaying the obvious markers of drunkenness and instead playing belligerent; its gaps in coherent logic are undermined by a subtle, ever-shifting center of gravity. The reunion ends in disaster and Samantha finds herself in trouble with the law and forced into court-ordered sobriety.

The show, from first designer Simone Finch (The Conners), follows Samantha for a year, trying to maintain her sobriety and rebuild her life. True to well-worn comic tropes, she returns, humiliated, to the small town where she grew up and is forced to move in with her mother (Ally Sheedy). Black-D’Elia proves an equally compelling presence playing sober and drunk, and has equally impressive dramatic chops to go along with his comedy. Samantha’s pain and struggles to stay sober and make amends are poignant even when punctuated with her sarcastic retorts. She perfectly embodies the series’ tonal balance, which often feels off when she’s not on screen.

As Samantha struggles to stay sober, she assembles a support network. Her sober new family includes her NPR superstar godmother, Olivia (Rebecca Henderson), and her stylish grocery store boss, Mindy (Jojo Brown). Above all, she relies on a drunken one-night stand turned sober potential love interest (played by the charming Garrick Bernard), with whom she must postpone the inevitable romance with in order to obey the “no relations for your first year of sobriety” of AA. to reign. Their chemistry is palpable and sets the stakes on the show, raising what a relapse would mean as it would reset the clock on their wait to be together.

Equally interesting is Samantha’s reconstruction of her relationship with former best friend Brit (Sasha Compère), who is now engaged to Samantha’s ex-boyfriend. The two performances line up nicely: two complicated women in an ever-changing power dynamic. The show wisely puts aside the bland man they once fought over and instead focuses on how these women have a rare connection and an ability to see through each other’s artifice. The dynamic between Olivia and his wife proves less heavy but just as delightful, as they navigate Olivia going above and beyond with her devotion to her godchildren and an IVF journey. It’s a refreshing change of pace to see a queer couple with such unflinching adoration for each other (and their ridiculously huge cat).

The show works less well when it comes to broader comedic strokes. A St. Patrick’s Day episode (apparently, “St. Patrick’s Day is The purge for sober people”) has weird subplots and surreal flourishes that are as unfunny as they are jarring. And while Sheedy is still a delightful presence, many of his storylines feel alien, including some low-stakes book club shenanigans. Her relationship with her boyfriend (played enthusiastically by Ian Gomez) is perfectly enjoyable to watch, but aside from a few brief hints of her late husband’s disappearance and a misunderstanding of the nature of alcoholism, she doesn’t get any a real bow. In the end, the character feels underserved.

But Samantha’s arc is fully and beautifully realized right up to the credits of the final episode. Some episodes provide us with flashbacks to see exactly what a drunken disaster she was, and we can also dive deep into her unresolved grief over her father’s death and the toxicity of the New York media world she yearns for. to come back. Black-D’Elia delivers a phenomenal performance through every episode and every hurdle, from the insecurities of writing without alcohol, to the exhaustion of sobriety-induced insomnia, to the frustration of being incredibly horny and in presence of Garrick Bernard’s abs. She creates a central protagonist who is raw and sensitive with a sharp wit. Samantha’s smaller victories, including a tiny but sober paycheck and being turned down for a glass of champagne at a bridal shop, feel like well-deserved triumphs. In recent episodes, we’ve moved away from the “drunken single woman” insulting her boss: while Black-D’Elia’s drunken acting is always welcome, it’s just as joyful to see her as a that no one but Samantha evolves.

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