From the moment I began watching Netflix’s new reality show My Unorthodox Life—which follows the shenanigans of Elite World Group’s CEO, Julia Haart, and her family—I knew I would have questions. In the opening scene of the first episode, the viewer is thrown right into Julia’s dealings with her daughter Batsheva and son-in-law Ben Weinstein. The three are seated at a table in Julia’s Tribeca apartment, discussing the young couple's sex life, as the matriarch delivers some advice on how to keep things lively. “Mix it up,” she says. “Try role-playing. You know, naughty nurse. Try different positions. Sixty-nine it.”
Wait a minute. Did I miss something? I grabbed my remote and rewound to the beginning of the show. How is it possible that this was the start? There was no soft introduction, no gentle easing into getting to know the characters—just aerial shots of New York City (as any good reality series has) and a direct leap into the hijinks, with very little explanation.
This narrative device employed to pique interest certainly worked—I've been hooked on watching My Unorthodox Life ever since it came out on July 14. But I don't necessarily watch it because I love it. I keep binging the series because I finish every episode with more questions than I began it with, and I’m convinced the next episode will answer those questions.
The show follows Julia—who left an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle in Monsey, New York to pursue a life of entrepreneurship and freedom—along with her husband Silvio Scaglia Haart, daughter Miriam, and sons Shlomo and Aron. Miriam is a young woman exploring her sexuality who will surely receive a spin-off after My Unorthodox Life, Shlomo is a somewhat bumbling guy trying to get his dating profiles in order, and Aron still lives in Monsey with Julia's ex-husband, where he leads a fundamentalist lifestyle. The chief operating officer of Elite World, Robert Brotherton, is also a central character. He functions as the impish, flamboyant sidekick who may or may not have been cast just for the show.
Every time the credits roll, I log a whole new list of questions prompted by the episode I just watched. Where does Julia buy her truly enormous wine glasses? (I mean, these things are huge. She’ll put her hand on the mouth of the glass and it barely touches the entire rim.) Why is everyone wearing Christian Dior? How did Julia go from sheltered Jewish housewife to business mogul millionaire in the span of just a couple years? (I’m not doubting her business acumen. There are merely some holes in the timeline I'm looking to fill.) Why is Miriam suddenly making out with the girl she’s dating at her mother’s work event?
Every episode of My Unorthodox Life is chock full of events. So much happens. They’re at dinner, they’re at Julia’s e1972 fashion show, suddenly they’re in Paris at Fashion Week, now they’re in the Hamptons, now it’s Sukkot and they’re at dinner again. Each scene is a sensory overload of Emily in Paris-esque fashion, elaborate tablescapes, and giant glasses of Pinot Grigio.
Despite these visual cues, Julia still feels like something of a mystery. Sure, the show centers Julia Haart, but what do you really know about her? She loves sequined catsuits and platform high heels. She calls her husband Silvio “my love” exclusively. And she cares deeply about her children. However, Julia is stoic throughout the series, which seems counterintuitive—she’s putting her whole life on television, after all. But she holds her cards close, and maintains that armor which, I always hope, will be broken down in the next episode. Even through tears at Aron and her ex husband’s house in Monsey, meetings with Lais Ribeiro at the Elite offices, and lunch with Silvio that’s interrupted by a Louis Vuitton fitting, I still have questions about who Julia Haart is. (There are plenty of Reddit threads, by the way, with theories about Julia’s life—all of which contain questionable truthfulness.)
I’ll keep watching My Unorthodox Life to see what happens next in this wacky fantasy on Netflix. Meantime, the queries keep rolling in—and I forge on to find out more.