Film

Netflix’s Easy is Joe Swanberg’s Visual Love Letter to Chicago

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You’re probably aware by now that Netflix recently released Easy, filmmaker Joe Swanberg’s latest project. The gist of it is that Easy is an unapologetic love letter to Chicago and the bohemians that live in certain parts of this city.

An argument could be made that the city of Chicago as an entity is the central character of Swanberg’s Easy and it thrives because of it. This is a departure from Dick Wolf and his stable of police, firefighter, lawyer, and medical dramas that take place in a conceptualized idea of Chicago rather than the city itself. Hell, Empire aggressively pretends to take place in Manhattan even though it’s filmed at Cinespace Studios down in Lawndale as well as various locations around town.

Throughout the series’ eight episodes, Swanberg places a subtle spotlight on places and things from Chicago not commonly seen on national television. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots of Dark Matter Coffee and Punch House, for example. Bottles of Letherbee gin and Few Spirits are centrally placed in the background of scenes under a soft enticing light. Don’t Fret, the street artist, is given a huge shoutout and takes on a substantial role in the series.

Yeah, Easy focuses perhaps too heavily on the north side and the hipsters that live there, which is slightly problematic and is something I’d like to see addressed if the show takes on a second season. I totally get Swanberg’s hesitation to write about people of color on the far south and west sides as he isn’t a part of those communities and probably doesn’t want to be accused of appropriating a culture he doesn’t belong to. I do believe Swanberg should at least try. There are artists in Chatham and beautiful architecture in Garfield Park exists that shouldn’t be excluded from the narrative of Chicago in film. The Pilsen episode that featured prominent Hispanic actors and was almost entirely in Spanish was a good start. Go further.

All of that said, Chicago seems alive in front of Swanberg’s camera and it is a joy to behold. We’ve gathered screengrabs of some of the best Chicago-centric shots of Easy. Check them out below.

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All photographs courtesy of Netflix.

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