The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow (Netflix)
I thought I had the perfect angle: "Gwyneth Paltrow thinks we should all be taking magic mushrooms." I wanted so badly for that to be the headline – imagine the clicks! Please let this extremely wealthy lifestyle guru turn out to be even half the kooky scammer she's made out to be any time her controversial wellness brand and website Goop hits the news.
This was before I watched the first episode of her new series, The Goop Lab, on Netflix, and realised how much of it I'd have to wilfully misinterpret in order to come to that conclusion. But maybe this is how it's always been when it comes to the popular pastime of Getting Mad at Gwyneth.
To be fair, neither Paltrow nor any of the people on her team who volunteered to try psychedelic-assisted therapy in this episode say we shouldn't be doing magic mushrooms. They're just very careful to avoid saying we should. And that if we do, it should be under such a specific set of conditions that we probably couldn't afford anyway.
The session the four Goop employees attend is held at an idyllic resort in Jamaica, guided by a laid-back facilitator called Gillian along with two intense "psychedelic elders": Richard, who has a suspiciously Kiwi-sounding accent and Sasha, who looks suspiciously like a Willem Defoe character in a Wes Anderson movie set at a psychedelic therapy retreat.
I imagine a jaunt like this would probably cost somewhere in the region of a million dollars. But can you really put a price tag on being held by an intensely empathetic stranger while you cry, then laugh uncontrollably ("they're both good," Sasha declares wisely) as the spirit of a dead parent courses through your soul? Or simply staring at the clouds and wondering: "Is the sky crazy?"
This is about as wild as it gets in an episode that's effectively a Vice documentary for the conservative Facebook mum demographic.
If the first disappointment of The Goop Lab is that nowhere near as entertaining as it promises, the second – and much greater – disappointment is that it offers very little insight into the mind of its enigmatic star. We never see Paltrow tripping out on a yoga mat; she doesn't even leave the Goop office, where she has a very sober discussion about the purported benefits of psychedelic and MDMA-led therapy with a couple of experts.
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So what does she think? "I think I better try some MDMA," she says, arriving at the same conclusion as probably every other basic – myself included – watching at home.
"Haven't you tried it once?" asks her chief content officer, Elise. "Yeah I did try it once," Paltrow remembers, "in Mexico." Paltrow on MDMA in Mexico … this is the show I wanted to watch.
It's hard to tell what Paltrow really thinks, maybe because she just doesn't really think anything beyond, "I'd quite like some MDMA right now." Maybe it's what she doesn't think, or say, that makes her such a maddening figure.