BINGE-R #38: Girlboss + Friday Night Films
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All 13 episodes now streaming
There’s a brightness to Girlboss, Netflix’s new series about an unruly accidental female entrepreneur, which encompasses both the visual palette and the cheery putdowns. The show is sleek and a little too predictable in how it plays out across the early episodes, but it certainly has a vivacious attitude. Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” gets a good blasting in the debut half hour, and that sets the tone for the fictionalised account of Sophia Amoruso’s rise from eBay trader to tech titan. Set in San Francisco circa 2006 – where the many uphill journeys represent the character’s travails – it gets by on ironic triumph and a committed lead performance from Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland).
This Sophia Amoruso is a 23-year-old narcissist, just fired from a retail gig, and fond of declaring that “adulthood is where dreams go to die”. In the decade since the real life Amoruso got rich, famous and flawed with her company Nasty Gal – she’s had the kind of public life that makes for a dishy Vanity Fair piece – but here her breakthrough is buying a vintage leather jacket for US$9 in a thrift store and selling it for US$650 online. “I figured out life,” she proudly declares, which is a cue for life to gazump her once more and put her back to square one and a shoplifted copy of eBay Business for Dummies.
If the program endures, subsequent seasons will get into corporate realm when she launches her own company, but the focus here are the initial steps. Sophia’s foes are fellow bargain hunters – the best of which is played by Melanie Lynskey (I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore – review here) – not tech bros, and the writing by the show’s creator Kay Cannon (30 Rock, Pitch Perfect) acknowledges gender inequality and power precipices but is quick to undercut any examination with a self-deprecating jab. To comfort Sophia and the audience, RuPaul Charles drops by as her neighbour who does bong hits after a hard day’s work.
An overly amped soundtrack supplants a genuine viewpoint, and this series could have done without some of the familiar flourishes. Ellie Reed is fun as Sophia’s best friend, Annie, but the role takes way too long to break out of bestie cliches, while Sophia’s line about her new hook-up, indie band drummer Shane (Johnny Simmons), proves to be unfortunately accurate: he has a “go to Africa, dig wells vibe”. You can zip through this season of snarky self-assurance in a few nights if inclined, but Girlboss is short on sustenance.
>> Bonus Binge: If you’re after a title where young women go large and take charge, try Netflix’s British horror-comedy Crazyhead. It’s a concise, telling take on breaking out of society’s perceptions that supplies a frisky take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer [review here].
FRIDAY NIGHT FILMS
If you want a smart new comedy…
Win it All (Netflix, 2017, 88 minutes): The prolific American independent filmmaker Joe Swanberg linked up with Netflix for the first-rate relationship anthology series Easy [review here], and the streaming service has now released his latest feature. Rifled with long lens shots and seventies grain, Win it All is about a Chicago gambling junkie, Eddie Garrett (The New Girl’s Jake Johnson, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Swanberg), who gets himself in a hole minding a bag of cash for a prison bound loan shark. But it’s by no means a crime film, and even as Eddie dips into the illicit bank his personal life is flowering as he gets to know Eva (Aislinn Derbez). It’s truly about a practised self-deceiver actually trying to right himself, and Johnson mixes bravado and bitterness with comic ease, adding to the authentically lived-in quality that permeates the movie. All the relationships are close and complicated, and there’s a welcome hint of John Cassavetes to this barbed comedy.
If you’re after a wrenching lesbian romance…
Summertime (Stan, 2015, 105 minutes): When Delphine (Izia Higelin) arrives in 1971 Paris at the start of Catherine Corsini’s romantic drama she’s swept up in the burgeoning women’s rights movement, discovering her defining beliefs and Carole (Cecile de France). But the electricity of their union is soon tested when Delphine has to return to her family farm and work the land. Knowledgeable and determined, she holds her own, but when Carole follows her their relationship is soon threatened by compromise and subterfuge. A veteran of the French film industry, Corsini treats each character in turn with tact and consideration, so that you understand their viewpoint even as Delphine is pulled one way and another by conservative expectations and the rapturously expressed pleasure of her relationship with Carole.
If you prefer your sci-fi intimate…
Moon (Amazon, 2009, 97 minutes): Science-fiction has passed back from the bloated blockbuster to independent innovation over the last decade, and one of the instigators was Duncan Jones’ debut feature. Shot in a corner of London’s Shepperton Studios, using veteran technicians and techniques such as miniatures, Moon turns an existential crisis into a self-reflective thriller as a single rostered overseer on a 2035 lunar mining module begins to suspect that he is not alone. Sam Rockwell’s uneasy geniality is perfectly to the fore here, with his character Sam Bell joined by GERTY, the station’s AI (voiced with HAL-like tones by Kevin Spacey). The conspiracy that takes shape turns on the question of identity, with a sharp strain of black humour and an ever more timely warning about the future of employment contracts.
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