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SXSW 2023 Review: Zoe Lister-Jones’ ‘Slip’ Takes Us on a Fantastical Sexual Journey through Parallel Universes

SXSW 2023 Review: Zoe Lister-Jones’ ‘Slip’ Takes Us on a Fantastical Sexual Journey through Parallel Universes

In recent years, the Roku Channel has joined the long list of streaming platforms churning out quality original content, like last year’s Swimming with Sharks. This year, they’ll debut with a surreal romantic comedy from writer-director-showrunner and all-around Renaissance woman Zoe Lister-Jones (How It Ends, The Craft: Legacy), starring herself. The seven-episode series takes us on a fantastical yet grounded sexual journey of self-discovery. 

The series follows Mae Cannon (Lister-Jones), a thirty-something art museum curator. She’s been married to Elijah (Whitmer Thomas) for 13 years, and everything is just fine. They have a routine that works, but Mae seems bored of it all. Her best friend Gina (Tymika Tafari) even tries to tell her how much she should appreciate the apparent ease of her marriage because it beats the endless grind of being single. But Mae describes the union, at least hers, as more like “being single together.” Her interactions with her husband are mostly about what to watch together on TV and the dreaded daily decision on what to have for dinner. “So, what’s our snack situation?” is one of my favorite lines. 

When Elijah brings up having children, right before bed (not a great time), she starts to get anxious. On the night of a big exhibition at the museum, Mae finds herself talking to a handsome stranger Eric (Amar Chadha-Patel) and selfishly decides to cheat on her husband, who bailed on the party before it started. Sure, she’ll regret it in the morning and will have some explaining to do for being out all night. But what she actually wakes up to is a completely different life. 

In this alternate world (which looks completely normal), Mae is married to her one-night stand Eric. Her name and appearance are unchanged, but her surroundings are noticeably different. As she discovers more and more about this other Mae and the life she apparently leads, she realizes that she doesn’t want to be this version either. The post-orgasm dimension hopping continues as she tries to find her way back home to her “real” life and the version of herself she thinks she knows best. She wakes up in a new life with a new partner and suddenly this excitement she was craving back in her world isn’t as fun as she thought. 

In the cinematic world of Slip, Mae’s sudden ability to travel between worlds doesn’t feel that implausible, despite being a story centered on a woman’s multidimensional vagina. The fantasy elements still feel grounded. Instead of a big multiversal journey, it’s more like experiencing the surreality of life. It reminds me a lot of the head trip that is I’m Thinking of Ending Things, where the situations are weird while strange people pop up. Life is weird in itself, so most of the bizarre occurrences are easy to overlook or explain. 

In her opening narration, she describes the monotony of her life as a dream. Nothing feels real because repeating the same tasks makes us comfortable enough to mentally check out. Once you do something over and over again, you don’t have to give it your full attention. In her case, it’s her marriage. Lister-Jones told Women’s Wear Daily, “The show was born out of that question: what do we do with our insatiable need for something more?”

Joseph Shabason and Christine Bougi’s ’70s/’80s pop music sets a dreamy tone for the series, which goes well with its bright and airy setting. While the story takes place in New York, it was filmed in Canada, and it took me at least one or two episodes to realize it wasn’t Los Angeles. It’s not a bustling Sex in the City environment. Instead, it has more of an L.A.-based New Girl feel to it. It’s always sunny and the nighttime scenes aren’t dark and seedy like some representations of NYC. 

There are a number of themes throughout Slip: be careful what you wish for, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and so on. But it’s also about the terror of living inside a mistake you made. Mae has the chance to fall in love all over again with her husband and go back to the honeymoon phase, making for some awkward, funny, touching, and heartbreaking moments. 

Slip is a head-spinning love story about the mundanity of life and one woman’s struggle to embrace it. Through these seemingly temporary relationships, Mae tries to figure out who she actually is and who she wants to be because it’s the only way she could possibly make it back to her own world. It’s like a darkly comedic spin on Shining Girls (minus the time-traveling serial killer). It’s not the most thrilling series, but with this talented female-led cast and intriguing plot, it doesn’t need to be. 

The first three episodes of Slip premiered at the 2023 South by Southwest Film Festival, and the series debuts on April 21 on The Roku Channel

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