New from Andrea Thompson on The Young Folks: Charlie’s Angels Movie Review: Feminist action heroines fly, but don’t soar

Charlie’s Angels doesn’t just
have a feminist legacy, but a very specific type, or shall we say,
brand. One that unapologetically places just as much emphasis on its
female characters’ beauty and fashion choices as it does their
kickass action skills. This can go very right, as was the case of the
70s TV show from whence this franchise sprung, and the 2000 movie
that gave it new life. Or it can go terribly wrong, as was the case
with the 2003 sequel.

Thankfully, the 2019 reboot/sequel mostly gets it right, even if it can’t resist beginning with some of the most pointed dialogue ever written. Luckily, it’s also satisfying, as few movies manage to lay out such a clear, concise case for feminism without being condescending, right in the middle of a fun action scene. Kristen Stewart begins as the film’s MVP and stays that way, and it seems like she’s having a blast.

But much of the real introduction comes
through Elena (Naomi Scott), a scientist who approaches the ladies
after the corporation she works for dismisses her concerns about the
safety of the power source she’s helped create. Proving that no good
deed goes unpunished, her actions make her the target of a highly
skilled, deadly assassin, prompting Elena’s action-packed journey
around the world with experienced Angels Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and
Jane (Ella Balinska), guided by their Bosley, played by Elizabeth
Banks, who co-wrote the screenplay in addition to directing.

Yes, the Angels have had some good
times, and grown into an international force, with several Bosleys
providing mentorship to teams of highly-trained women. That’s not to
say the past is left unreferenced, with more than a few cameos
longtime fans will recognize, as well as plenty of nostalgia bait for
millennials who were first introduced to the franchise via Lucy Liu,
Drew Barrymore, and Cameron Diaz. (Remember when having a blonde, a
brunette, and a redhead as leads was considered diversity?)

Not that female action heroes are
revolutionary anymore, but a film with such an explicitly female gaze
still is. Yes, there are plenty of outfits which are no less stylish
for coming equipped with protective gear, but there are also safe
houses that practically double as spas. Even if the female characters
sashay around action scenes in stilettos, the camera often makes a
point of emphasizing how high heels are removed or exchanged for more
practical footwear before the action even begins. Naturally, the
fabulous outfits remain constant.

Such trappings have a tendency to
overwhelm character, and Charlie’s Angels does somewhat fall
into this trope, with many of the film’s emotional beats somewhat
neglected, especially the steadily growing bond between the three
very different women. At least it’s also neglected to the film’s
emphasis not just on sisterhood, but some of the obstacles women face
in less welcoming environments, with one of the minor plot points
involving a clinic that caters to women’s reproductive health in

Most of the jokes land too, a running
one being a minor, more openly misogynistic villain named Fleming
(Nat Faxon). It’s impossible not to view this as a jab at author Ian
Fleming, who helped make female objectification one of the trademarks
of the Bond franchise. Given that history, it’s probably why it’s
still so damn fun to see the kind of women who are still mainly
treated as sidekicks take center stage.

from Andrea Thompson – The Young Folks

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