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How Dash & Lily Melted My Cold, Dead Heart

by

December 9, 2020
Read Time: 4 minutes

“It’s practically daring you NOT to feel something (spoiler: not possible)”

 

 

Lonely rich boy alone at Christmas.

 

Manic pixie dream girl leaves clues for a boy to find her. 

 

Based on these descriptions alone, you might think that this Netflix limited series would be dripping with tropes and cliches, but this rom com beats the odds.  Of course it helps that the series is an adaptation of Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares written by YA powerhouses David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. This is where I tell you to go out, BUY THE BOOK, and read it before watching.  But I also know that most people roll their eyes and ignore me when I say that, so I’ll move along (seriously, buy the book though).  

 

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The story begins at one of my favorite places in New York City: The Strand Bookstore. The Strand is three and a half floors of literary magic sitting a few blocks south of Union Square, and it’s where our leading man, the ever snarly Dash, finds a notebook sandwiched between J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zoey, beginning a romance of correspondence with the bubbly and spirited, Lily.  Through writing to each other back and forth in a red moleskin, they bare their souls and send each other on adventures all across New York City.  

 

One of the great strengths of this series is that it succeeds where so many other Christmas in New York movies fail.  They may all look beautiful and festive, but as a former resident of New York City, they rely largely on Hollywood magic, and not New York magic. Dash and Lily, however, gets it right.  The holiday craft booths sprawled across Union Square, the LED pageantry of Dyker Heights, and even the sticky floors of basement clubs proudly using every December Holiday as an excuse to upcharge for drinks, Dash and Lily makes me miss New York in ways I haven’t for over a decade.

 

But it’s not just the setting that’s brimming with authenticity.  Our two leads are charming as hell, and as close to realistic looking teenagers as you can get in a Hollywood project.

 

 

Lily is played by Midori Francis who brings a quirky insecurity to the role, making her both more likable and more relatable than the other manic pixie dream girls (normally written by straight CIS men) we’ve become accustomed to. She also makes me want a pair of red, high-top Converse so bad I can feel it in my bones (size 8 ½, please).  Seriously, I haven’t seen costumes contribute to a character so fully since Moira Rose of Schitt’s Creek.

 

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Austin Abrams is the right amount of reclusive and cool as Dash. And while the makeup, hair, and costume department pulled out all the stops to make him a copy of Timothee Chalamet, he doesn’t need it. His performance stands on it’s own, even without the impossible to replicate cheekbones of TC.  

 

Other standouts are Troy Iwota as Lily’s brother, Langston, and Glenn McCuen as Edgar. However, the best supporting performance by far is Jodi Long as Mrs. Basil E., Lily’s eccentric great aunt and godmother. Seriously, we all need a Godmother in our lives who says she’s taking us to an Off-Broadway show and actually takes us on a trip to Vegas. Because, as Mrs. Basil E. reminds us, Las Vegas is “most definitely not on Broadway.”  

 

Now that Hollywood is FINALLY beginning to broaden it’s diversity and showcasing some truly incredible Asian talent, I would love to see more of Francis, Iwota, and Long!

 

 

The series takes some liberties that stray from the original source content, but nothing too major, and each change makes sense for a medium switch from page to screen.  The one thing that doesn’t change is the heart and soul. Dash and Lily has such a strong sense of authenticity and heart that it’s practically daring you NOT to feel something (spoiler: not possible). When Lily shares her middle school experience of realizing she wasn’t one of the group, but ‘the other,’ the lump in my throat was so big I had to suppress it with a big gulp of vodka lemonade to avoid flashbacks from the fourth grade.

 

“It’s practically daring you NOT to feel something (spoiler: not possible)”

 

I will say my only slight disappointment was after such a beautiful slow burn, the ending felt super rushed. Though I honestly couldn’t tell if it was genuinely rushed or if I just wasn’t ready to leave Dash and Lily’s world yet.  

It’s been a rough year. If you’ve been stuck inside (like me), if you miss having little adventures (like me), and even if you were brutally dumped right before quarantine began (like me), watch Dash and Lily. We could all use some sincerity, Christmas cheer, and a happy ending.

 

 

Catch Dash & Lily on Netflix.

 

 

Words Nicole Caliro

Art Alexandra Lara

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4 Responses

  1. The ending did feel rushed but boy did I enjoy every single episode. I even cried once or twice. Great review!

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