Let’s get this right off the bat: no, Kristen Stewart does not kiss a single girl even though her hair looks like that. It does, however, open with her character Sabina choking a man between her thighs. After that, it veers off the tracks into forgettability, which is especially disappointing because I was rooting for this one. We were all rooting for this one.
Writer/director/co-star Elizabeth Banks’s reboot of the 1970s television series of a 2000 movie of a 2003 sequel centers on the recruitment of new angel Elena (Naomi Scott), a plucky scientist who fights back against her chauvinist boss after he plans to release a deadly new technology that is very much not ready for release. The tech, called Calisto, is a neurological weapon that can easily be hacked and used for EVIL!
This is where the other Angels come in: Jane (Ella Balinska), a hardened former MI-6 agent with a secret soft spot, and the aforementioned Sabina, a playful rebel who rejects her heiress upbringing and who also happens to be my beautiful girlfriend whom I love deeply. Their previous Bosley (Patrick Stewart) has just retired, so with the help of their new one (Banks), the Angels team up to ensure Calisto doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
What’s frustrating here is that almost every women-led studio movie made post-2016 has been loaded with a specific brand of faux-feminism that only applies to conventionally attractive women. An opening credits sequence featuring a diverse montage of girls around the world participating in science and arts and sports doesn’t automatically provide an out for lacking anything else to say about feminism (although it did make me, and I’m sure many impressionable girls, smile).
The real problem with a 2019 reboot of Charlie’s Angels it that its central tenet, hot babes weaponizing their own looks to gather intelligence, is inherently outdated. A lot of this movie seems inherently outdated. Like including a skinny girl character who constantly cracks jokes about how much she loves eating, ala Jennifer Lawrence in 2014. Did you roll your eyes at that reference? You’d be right to –– it’s outdated! That skinny girl character is the one played by Stewart, whose immense talent is semi-wasted, but is somehow still the best part of the movie. Every single one of her outfits, along with her blonde highlighted pixie-cut, are so specifically catered to bisexuals to the point that I softly gasped in delight at least five different times.
But therein lies another issue! The script ties the appeal of being a spy into this capitalistic fantasy about being rich enough to have an overabundance of clothing and resources. It tells girls that you should be amazed by and desperately want a closet packed full of designer gowns and accessories. There is so much more to being a woman than just looking good, and Banks knows this to be true, but fails to properly convey this idea. There are half-baked attempts at subversion, like a love interest (Noah Centineo?!) for the hardhearted Jane, and Elena’s occasional pointing out of the systemic sexism that prevents her from being taken seriously in the tech world (her boss jokes that the Calisto console will come in pastel colors for the “ladies,” at which she rolls her eyes). It’s just … not enough.
Instead, Banks’ direction thrives when viewing the girls through a distinctly female gaze. Whereas the original eponymous 1970s television show and respective 2000 and 2003 movie adaptations appear to be the products of male fantasy disguised as empowerment, Charlie’s Angels (2019) is finally free from the confines of that suffocating gaze. Sapphic women have since reclaimed the previous installments, choosing to pretend like the blatant objectification of the Angels isn’t damaging. And we’ll be reclaiming this one, too.