The Pitch: Married couple Whitney (Emma Stone) and Asher Seigel (Nathan Fielder) have struck a deal with HGTV to produce the pilot of their new eco-driven home flipping show, titled Flipanthropy. Set in what Whitney refers to as her hometown (it’s not) of Española, New Mexico, the show aims to follow Whitney and Asher as they flip rustic homes into what they call “Passive Houses,” which are carbon neutral, 100% sustainable homes that function as their own regenerative ecosystem.
Of course, the inside of these homes are decked out with high-end furniture, expensive eco-friendly appliances, and insulation that keeps the temperature at an average rate — but it’s the boxy, reflective exterior, made entirely of mirrors, that captures the attention of both HGTV and the surrounding community.
Not only are Whitney and Asher busy acquiring properties around Española, tearing them down, building new Passive Homes, and selling those redone properties for a significant profit, they feel a responsibility to engage with the town’s community — so, they open an upscale coffee house and jean shop, promise jobs and relocation to the town’s displaced citizens, and promote the show as a philanthropic mission to help Española. Producing the pilot and Flipanthropy overall is Asher’s old friend Dougie Schecter (Benny Safdie), a somewhat buffoonish character who still hasn’t quite processed his drunk driving collision that led to the death of his wife.
Meanwhile, the more uncomfortable aspects of Whitney and Asher’s plot begin to take shape: Whitney’s parents (played by Corbin Bernsen and Constance Shulman) are wealthy real estate developers in nearby Sante Fe, and are notoriously cruel to their tenants. Seeking to undo her association to them, Whitney overcompensates hard and does whatever she can to avoid the label of “gentrifier.”
Asher, on the other hand, is a former contractor and ex-Casino employee who will obey Whitney’s commands at the drop of a hat. Even from the outset, their relationship is tense and thorny — and with the pressures of selling the show, trying to have a baby, and doing right by the community, their anxiety levels are through the (insulated) roof.
One day, while grabbing B-roll in a nearby parking lot, Dougie suggests that Asher give money to a local girl named Nala (Dahabo Ahmed) selling sodas. They get the footage, and Asher — realizing he gave the girl his only bill, which was $100 — takes the money back from Nala, who then curses him. He seeks to do right by the girl, especially at Whitney’s request, but fails to do so, setting in a growth of paranoia and misfortune that takes a significant toll on his psyche, even as they make the TV show of their dreams.