PHOTO COURTESY IBTIMES
Story By: Abigale Racine
Marriage. Silicon Valley. Racism. Drugs. These are the relevant (and challenging) topics that comedian and New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Handler tackles in her documentary series “Chelsea Does”, which premiered to stream on Netflix last month.
Allow me to begin with this written claim before you commit to reading this fine piece of journalistic excellence: I adore Chelsea Handler. The foul-mouthed funny woman formerly associated with “Chelsea Lately” on the E! network is notorious for being unashamedly brash and outspoken about popular culture and society. I love that she always speaks her mind, as politically incorrect as it may be at times, but she is always open to equality and a learning experience. Handler is an open book, and now the forty year old, New Jersey native has no network regulations to stop her. And she’s not holding back during the first series of four episodes of “Chelsea Does.”
In the first episode, Handler addresses the subject matter of marriage. An unmarried woman herself, Chelsea is curious about what makes a good marriage and what brings couples together. She asks her married friends over drinks; she interviews numerous professionals (i.e. wedding planners, counselors, matchmakers); and, most humorously, she gets childrens’ input on the union. Notably, before the scandal, Handler places Ashley Madison’s co-founder in his place during an office visit.
Admitting that she repels technology, Handler travels to Silicon Valley, the mecca of tech, in the next episode, in efforts to gain a better understanding of the things that trouble her. Chelsea learns how to code alongside a classroom of children, gains knowledge on how technology affects our brains, and she pitches and helps create a helpful dating app called ‘Gotta Go.’
By far the most controversial episode is the third installment where Chelsea confronts racism in America. As a comedian, she is intrigued by where the line is drawn in regards to racial humor. Chelsea sits down and discusses this with several civil rights organizations and activists, including Al Sharpton. Perhaps the most touching, hard-hitting sequence is when Chelsea meets with shooting victims’ families. She also addresses where her own racism comes from, her father, which I thought was sincerely humbling of Handler. This episode was an emotional, politically-charged, beautiful turmoil.
I commend director Eddie Schmidt for the cinematography of this well-produced series as well.
This season of “Chelsea Does” ends on a much-needed lighter note, with an episode on drugs. Chelsea is honest about her past and present drug usage, opening with an edible dinner scene with friends. She speaks with recovering addicts, then experiments with Adderall and Ambien on-camera. Later she travels to Peru with friends to experience the healing wonders of the powerful drug Ayahuasca, which many users cite having a spiritual awakening after drinking. For those unfamiliar, it is a hallucinogen that is supposed to access a higher power.
SPOILER ALERT: for some, it is not all that it cracked up to be.
The scenes I like best in these documentaries are the ones that feature Handler in sessions with her therapist. It is interesting to hear the deepest fears, insecurities and thoughts of America’s favorite vodka aunt.
It is important to say that the fun-loving Chelsea is not gone, she’s just matured into becoming the entertainer she’s always fancied herself to be. I will say, if you weren’t a fan of her on E!, don’t bother watching this.
Chelsea is in her element more than ever here on “Chelsea Does”, and here I want her to stay.