charlie's angels 2019 review

Charlie’s Angels

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charlie's angels poster
Release Date
November 15, 2019
Country
USA
Genre(s)
Action, Adventure, Comedy
Direction
Elizabeth Banks
Our Score
3

Elizabeth Banks, the first female director of the franchise, unapologetically flies the feminist flag in the latest screen adaptation of Charlie’s Angels. The film not only respects its history but also improves on its legacy. It is an entertaining escapist romp filled with sneaky references mocking the patriarchy. The greatest contribution of Banks, however, is unleashing the comic skills of Kristen Stewart.   

The latest incarnation of Charlie’s Angels is not a reboot but more of a continuation. Multiple Bosleys manage the Townsend private detective agencies scattered internationally. The action kicks off after angels Sabina (Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) frustrated an assassination attempt on Elena (Naomi Scott), a scientist whose invention has been weaponized by dangerous people. Rebekah Bosley (Banks), the first angel promoted to the position, leads the team as they try to uncover the truth.

Honestly, the plot is the least of our concern because the selling point of the franchise has always been the smart and independent crime-fighting ladies in cool clothes and cooler cars. Unlike in the previous films, there is little focus on their romantic relationships with men. Clearly, Banks is bent on focusing on female friendship and sisterhood. Though they can easily be classified under one description (e.g. Sabina is the rebel, Jane is the soldier, and Elena is the nerd), the actors were given enough material to explore their characters. Scott continues to impress after her lead performance as Princess Jasmine. Balinska, a former athlete, carried most of, and acquitted herself well, in the major action set pieces.

charlie's angels review

But it is the riotous turn of Stewart that kept the film alive. In one profile, the arthouse darling shared, “I always want to set myself up, to put myself within parameters so I can just completely lose it, so it’s always me.” Keep losing yourself on the big screen, Kristen. Mercilessly criticized for her blank stares and sporadic smiles, Stewart reinvents herself as a comedian as she returns to mainstream films. Once again, she has proven there is always more to her as an actor.

charlie's angels kristen stewart

Since its inception in 1976, Charlie’s Angels has been presented from the male gaze. Despite the titular trio of crime-fighting women, the people behind the series and the films have been mostly men. The prevailing male perspective has effectively canceled any real feminist aspiration. The original television series became the prime example of “jiggle television”, a derisive term for shows featuring scantily clad women. The big screen adaptations in the early 2000s, Charlie’s Angels and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, did not fare better because of the all-seeing male gaze.

With Banks at helm, the franchise secures a female gaze make-over. There are no angels dancing in their panties nor flirting in German girl beer costumes. The camera does not salaciously linger on the female bodies. Instead, Banks snuck in references familiar to women who, at one point in their lives, experienced sexism (i.e. all women). It’s as if Banks is winking at her female audience, “Yes, girl. Let’s see if the boys got that.” True to form, she also knocked on internal misogyny. In one scene, her character calls out one of the angels for doubting her integrity, “You had no trouble believing me.”

charlie's angels 2019 movie reivew

Still, it remains the Hollywood idea of girl power: a glossy, breezy action fare featuring kickass, gorgeous ladies. The appeal lies in its attempt to rattle the misogynist foundation of the franchise. The present angels are not limited to cisgenders and Caucasians. Bosley is not a man but rather a position. The end credit surprise (there is one) features a parade of cameo appearances and serves as an homage to real-life women trailblazers.

The film is not groundbreaking, nor does it entirely earn its wings – but it sure has developed contemporary feathers.

Anticipation
Experience
In Hindsight
Reader Rating2 Votes3.2
3
Rating
Takeaway
With Banks at helm, the franchise secures a female gaze make-over. The appeal lies in its attempt to rattle the misogynist foundation of the franchise. The present angels are not limited to cisgenders and Caucasians. Bosley is not a man but rather a position. The film is not groundbreaking, nor does it entirely earn its wings – but it sure has developed contemporary feathers.