Russian Doll Netflix. The new show created by Natasha Lyonne with Amy Poehler and a slew of writers (notably women) is perfect for binge watching. Eight 24 minute episodes packed with cool sequences, and fast paced dialogue. Time loops are having a big moment. Nadia, the protagonist of Doll, and Jessica Rothe, the heroine of time loop horror Happy Death Day 2U do have some similarities. But their lives couldn’t be more different.
In fact, another free spirited heroine in an romanticized NYC setting kept coming to mind. Before you start shaking your head, hear me out here.
Because in a lot of ways the new Russian Doll Netflix show feels like a kind of Breakfast at Tiffanys for a new era.
The famed Holly Go Lightly and Nadia Vulvokov are very different creatures, obviously. Nadia at one point describes herself as a mix of ‘Andrew Dice Clay and the girl from Brave’. But under the surface, past curly red hair, and chic chignons, there are actually a lot of common themes and some interesting parallels.
Each woman is an independent New Yorker with a vulnerable heart she fiercely guards. Golightly, despite her natural chicness, is a transplant. Nadia (like Lyonne) is native, and it shows. She resides in the same hood she grew up, something with which this writer can strongly relate. They’re single women surviving yet living a stale, repetitive lifestyle. Though they don’t realize it yet.
Of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s doesn’t involve death or time loops. Holly, however, is living in her own loop. Every day is wake, party, repeat. Nights include getting paid to ‘go to the powder room’. (Technically in the book, she was an escort. Director, Blake Edwards wanted to make her less gritty).
Nadia lives her own hollow life, partying, doing drugs, and having one night stands. She’s a female software engineer for video games in a world of men who don’t take her seriously. While she has some great friends, she makes conscious efforts to stay disconnected from people.
Two women who live decent lives, but are essentially lost.
Plus, each protagonist has taken ownership, and linked herself to an outdoor cat. Golightly has the stray eponymously named ‘Cat’. Nadia searches to find her friend, the local deli cat, Oatmeal. The cats have filled the space of real relationships.
These toxic lifestyles are taking a sub conscious toll when a change uproots each of their lives. Holly meets Paul Varjack when he moves into her building. Nadia’s fate is more intense and grim. It involves dying daily, until she discovers Alan. He’s suffering the same strange affliction, and they realize they’re inexplicably linked.
Neither can deny their connections, though they do try. These are females who defined themselves by their autonomy. Not easy to love, by their own design, yet men still do. But it’s these relationships that wind up changing them. Holly’s a romance, while Nadia and Alan, more of a kinship.
When they find themselves being dependent on someone else, its a shock to the system. These encounters, though by chance, eventually force them to reevaluate their unfulfilled lives.
Also, each tale is like a love letter to New York City.
The East Village is practically a character itself in Russian Doll Netflix. The 1961 film showcases, in stark contrast, the Upper East Side. Holly spends early morning hours at Tiffany & Co. That indelible image of the chicest woman ever holding a deli coffee and croissant, admiring windows of the most famous jewelry store in the world.
Nadia on the other hand, spends her time inside local bodegas. Her neighborhood deli (also the real Sunny and Annie’s) is famous in real life too. In this case, for their extensive sandwich counter.
City parks are also related. Holly lives nearby Central Park, which plays a small role. In Doll, Nadia roams the dimly, almost romantically lit Tompkins Square Park every night.
Holly and Nadia feel like, as Woody Allen once said, islands unto themselves. The stories differ, but the underlying fears and themes are essentially the same. Only by breaking through their self made islands are they able to finally bring an endless cycle to a close. In Nadia’s case, close the loop and stop her death. In Holly’s, let herself accept, and attempt to return love.
By accepting that we all sometimes need one another, or as Paul puts it in Tiffany’s, that people ‘do belong to each other’, they’re truly able to change and grow.