Opposites Attract in Netflix’s Holiday Rom-Com Series ‘Dash & Lily’
No city does the holidays quite like New York, and the Big Apple has provided the magical setting for some of the most memorable Christmas films, including “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Home Alone 2” and “Elf.” Now, two unlucky-in-love NYC teens discover that the city is fertile ground for a Yuletide season romance in “Dash & Lily,” a rom-com series from Netflix. Austin Abrams and Midori Francis star as the title characters, two very different young people who are brought together after one of them is moved to take a chance and leave a notebook containing a scavenger hunt for a would-be lover in one of New York’s many charming bookstores.
In the first of the eight episodes of “Dash & Lily,” which was adapted from “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, we meet the male lead, who is described at different times as both “snarly” and “finicky.” A child of divorce, Dash relishes his alone time so much that he has told each of his parents that he is spending Christmas with the other so he can relax in peace at his traveling father’s (Michael Park) luxury apartment. But it is not just generally misanthropy that has made Dash this way, as he is still nursing a broken heart from his last girlfriend, Sofia (Keana Marie), who ended the relationship when she moved.
Lily, meanwhile, has the opposite problem as Dash, because, while she’d love nothing more than to spend Christmas with her family, her parents (Gideon Emery, Jennifer Ikeda), have decided to head to Fiji for a second honeymoon, while her grandfather (James Saito) has booked a trip to visit his girlfriend in Florida. She’s not completely alone, as her college-aged brother, Langston (Troy Iwata), is also in the family apartment, but while he is a loving and supportive older sibling, he’s mostly occupied with his latest Grindr boyfriend, Benny (Diego Guevara). One thing she has in common with Dash is that they’re both old souls, but while he prefers to be alone drinking brown liquor with his nose in a book, she’d rather be out caroling, making friendship bracelets, or doing something else that her peers would deem dorky.
It is Langston who writes out the clues for the scavenger hunt in a red notebook that Lily, who has never been kissed or even been on a date, bravely puts on the shelf at the Strand, a real-life bookstore on Broadway. Luckily for her, a handsome age-appropriate young man is the one to pick it up. The pair end up writing to each other back and forth in the notebook, giving each other missions that push them out of their respective comfort zones. It’s a rather old-fashioned way of courting in an age in which most teens are attached to their phones; however, we come to see how getting to know someone as a pen pal isn’t that much different than getting to know them through their social media, because, in both cases, one or both parties usually end up building the other person up in their head or heads, and the big question becomes whether or not Lily can live up to Dash’s fantasy, or vice versa.
While “Dash & Lily” starts off as a typical YA series, frothy and enjoyable, it really gets interesting about half-way through when two other love interests are introduced. The first is Sofia, now back in New York, and she is not the harpy the viewer has envisioned, but a cultured, self-assured and warm young woman who approves of the changes Lily has inspired in her ex, maybe a little too much. Then there’s Edgar Thibaud (Glenn McCuen), Lily’s former middle school bully who reappears and makes a surprising revelation. Although Dash and Lily start to genuinely fall in love by the midway point, there’s just something about a person who is actually there in the flesh.
“Dash & Lily” benefits from the direction of three experienced directors, Brad Silberling, Pamela Romanowsky and Fred Savage, who bring out fun performances from not only Abrams and Midori, but also from a vibrant supporting cast that also includes newcomer Dante Brown as Dash’s enthusiastic wingman Boomer, and veteran character actress Jodi Long as Lily’s eccentric aunt and namesake.
The series also has all the trimmings one would expect from a holiday series set in New York, including iconic locations such as Grand Central Station and the Harold Square Macy’s all decked-out. There’s also a top-notch soundtrack featuring holiday and romantic tracks both new and old that help amplify the overall festive mood.
“Dash & Lily” begins streaming Nov. 10 on Netflix.