Some properties serve as cultural time capsules, perfectly reflecting their moment in history through the creative lens. CHARLIE’S ANGELS exemplifies this notion beginning with the iconic television series premiering in 1976, a sexy little crime drama. The Angels of the 2000s began to toy with contemporary feminism but it still felt like CHARLIE’S ANGELS was stuck in a bit of a rut. A little too fluffy and sexy.
The new CHARLIE’S ANGELS feels like the update this series needed. It’s smart. It’s current. It’s expanding the idea of what an “Angel” is, but it doesn’t lose that sexy and relatable appeal. It simply gives it a contemporary sophistication.
When a young systems engineer blows the whistle on a dangerous piece of revolutionary technology, Charlie’s Angels are called into action. They’ve got to stop this tech from reaching the black market and must battle threats from around the world… and from within the Townsend Agency itself. Elizabeth Banks brings her signature humor to the film as writer and director, with a perfect cast of Angels played by Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska.
To critique an action-comedy, why not start with the action itself? In CHARLIE’S ANGELS, they had me at “Good morning, Charlie.” More specifically, they had grabbed me by the opening scene. The fight choreography of CHARLIE’S ANGELS delivers exactly what you want from a female-led piece.
It’s strong, it’s beautiful, it’s intense, and it has ample opportunity for fun and flirtation. Each of the Angels is a total badass and that is reflected in the ferocity of their fights, but the unique style and quips gives us these great character reveals as well. I’m typically not one to comment on particular action and stunts in these sorts of films, but CHARLIE’S ANGELS does it damn well.
Though the entire cast is strong and shines brightly, Kristen Stewart steals every scene that she is in. This is such a refreshing way to see the star and the film perfectly utilizes her particular look and talent. As a viewer, you can feel the cast (especially Stewart) having fun with their roles and it makes it that much easier to buy in and have a good time.
To be completely honest, the #girlboss brand of feminism shown in CHARLIE’S ANGELS can feel a bit on the nose and it feels shallow at times. The opening credits show a montage of young girls around the world, popular female figures from Ronda Rousey to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are featured and referenced, and some of the dialogue hammers in the message so hard that it gives you a bit of a headache.
Yes, the film is guilty of a glittery girl power message. But that’s just the thing. The film glitters, it has a light that draws you in. In every moment that it can, the film shines a light on very real threats that women face: issues of reproductive health, references to workplace harassment, and the #MeToo movement. While it may come in a tiresome package with a big pink bow, CHARLIE’S ANGELS is able to reflect a sincerer feminism when it quiets down enough to let us see it. Those are the film’s best moments.
Further, the feminist triumph of CHARLIE’S ANGELS is its very 2019 approach to sexuality. A criticism often leveled at the original series and films was that the Angels were overly sexualized and saturated in the male gaze. Sexy for the sake of sexiness has always run rampant in the spy genre (Sean Connery’s 007, anyone?), but CHARLIE’S ANGELS may be a new shining example of how to do it right.
These Angels are HOT. Of course, beauty and badassery make a bewitching combination. They’ve got the looks to stop men (and women) in their tracks. Those tropes are all expected, but what you don’t expect is the recurring bits of a man falling for “Miss Independent” or a love connection being made on science puns. The raw sex appeal is there (Kristin Stewart’s fluid sexuality in the film is just another superpower in her utility belt), but the attractions all go deeper. CHARLIE’S ANGELS is hot, hot, HOT but not in the usual male-gaze definition.
Oddly, when stepping away from the film one can liken the experience of watching CHARLIE’S ANGELS to Magic Mike XXL. Allow me to explain. Magic Mike XXL was not attempting to do something particularly deep, but what it did do was cater to the female audience first. CHARLIE’S ANGELS is the Magic Mike XXL of action films.
CHARLIE’S ANGELS puts the focus of action, comedy, and storytelling on what appeals to women. It’s speaking to that mainstream feminism that is accessible to many (a great entry point). It’s not afraid to be girly, because girls just wanna have fun. CHARLIE’S ANGELS is a good time and unapologetically feminine in a genre dominated by male stories and depictions of women as either uncharacteristically masculine or sexed up for the male viewer.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect film. The twist is predictable (and I’m talking about the twist within a twist within a twist). It’s difficult to say whether that’s a failure in the writing or the overall predictability of this genre. Not a massive blemish on the film, but worth noting. Romances are a tad forced and, again, the messaging is so on the nose it starts to feel like a marketing campaign, but none of these faults are so great that it detracts from the overall fun.
And that’s really what CHARLIE’S ANGELS is about. It’s a fun film, packed with glitter and guts, that feels refreshingly modern without taking on too much pomp and prestige. Go in ready for a good time. CHARLIE’S ANGELS arrives in theaters on November 15, 2019.
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