Girls Aloud: What I Watched, September-October 2020

As I wrote earlier this year:

“The role of third-wave feminism certainly took its hold in the cinema of the 2010s. Women in the 21st century are allowed, more than ever, to be imperfectly perfect creatures: kind and compassionate, cold and calculating, badass…or just plain bad.”

Nowhere has this been more evident than in film and television of the past decade—from the Hunger Games trilogy to Orphan Black, and everything in between.   As we head into a new, uncertain one, it is at least comforting to know that women are still getting their due (and then some) on screens both big and small.  This trio of Netflix selections I’ve had the pleasure to watch the past couple of months are but just a few indications that the badassery is only just getting started.

Enola Holmes (2020, Netflix)

A very fun and entertaining adaptation of Nancy Springer’s series about the fictional younger sister of one Sherlock Holmes (yes, that Sherlock Holmes).  I’m not familiar with Springer’s novels, but as someone who has seen similar attempts at creating a teen Holmesian sleuth elsewhere in the Young Adult universe and been more than a little disappointed at what I found, I am happy to report that this particular rendition did not leave me feeling at all bereft.  Quite the opposite: screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne’s characterization, along with actress Millie Bobbie Brown’s shining, charismatic performance in the titular role, finally brings to the screen a satisfyingly formidable (in both brains and brawn) female lead worthy of the Holmes name.  

Equally satisfying is Adam Bosman’s masterful editing under the direction of Harry Bradbeer—rife with clever jump-cuts and wonderful animation, punctuating the film with both humor and heart.  The only qualms I really have is that I would have liked more on the themes of progressive change of the time period (particularly the suffrage movement), and more on Henry Cavill’s er…much buffier take on the legendary detective.  (Though, as someone else on Letterboxd already said: this movie wasn’t about him, anyway.)  

And as it should be.  Best to leave it to the girls, Sherl.

The Queen’s Gambit (2020, Netflix)

Much like the game around which the series itself is centered, Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is a compelling dive into the insular world of competitive chess.  All of the show’s moving parts—from its production and costume design to its stellar ensemble cast—each intricately act in accordance with one another, never competing for attention but instead creating the perfect sequence of events that will keep even those least interested in the game in its thrall.  

With the character Beth Harmon, Anya Taylor-Joy (as well as young Isla Johnston, who plays her nine-year-old counterpart) showcases some prodigious talent of her own.  Some of the most intelligent actors on screen, I’ve observed, always have that “certain something” going on behind the eyes that no amount of cleverly-worded dialogue could ever express or communicate, and which Taylor-Joy displays here in multitudes. 

If there is any strategy to her performance, it appears as effortless as one of her character’s moves on the board—one blink, and you might just miss it.  Supporting her is a round of equally strong players, including actress-director Marielle Heller and the great character actor Bill Camp.  (Other standout performances include Moses Ingram as Beth’s childhood friend, Jolene; and Harry Melling as fellow competitor Harry Beltik.)

All in all, The Queen’s Gambit is one series you’ll not want to resign yourself from.

Blackpink: Light Up the Sky (2020, Netflix)

Since their début in 2016, Korean girl group Blackpink’s collective star has gradually risen to meteoric heights, hitting its international apex when they were invited as the first K-Pop act ever to perform at Coachella last April.  Since then, they’ve gone on a world tour; filmed a new ‘reality’-based web series, dubbed 24/365 (in addition to their previous Blackpink Diaries and Blackpink House, all of which made easily accessible on Youtube to Blinks and non-Blinks alike); as well as filmed for this, their very own documentary (presumably, in secret), exclusively for Netflix.

Light Up the Sky not only chronicles the group’s stratospheric trajectory as pop stars but also delves a little deeper into the mystery often surrounding the training circuit within the K-Pop industry.  Under Caroline Suh’s direction, the film shows the four girls in a new light, and often in unexpected ways.  (Another nice bonus here is perhaps the group’s most unsung hero, Teddy Park, who humbly relegates his own contribution to the girls’ success by instead shining the spotlight on each girl’s own strengths.)

Definitely worth a watch for even the most casual of K-Pop stans.

All images courtesy of Netflix.