Kristen Stewart and ‘Charlie’s Angels’: First critical reactions
The reboot lives in a weird space in today’s media landscape. While we probably don’t need a new Spider-Man, a reboot of a classic property done well can be a good thing. And the 2019 reboot of Charlie’s Angels definitely has people excited.
The Charlie’s Angels reboot, directed by Elizabeth Banks and starring Kristen Stewart, promised to take the premise of the classic 70s series and the early 00s movies in an awesome new direction. The flick, which also stars Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska, hits theaters on Friday, Nov. 15.
Inspired by the eponymous 70s television show, Charlie’s Angels takes the franchise in a new direction. Rather than a lone group of Angels listening to the mysterious Charlie, the Townsend Agency is an international organization. With multiple Bosleys and teams of Angels around the globe, they strive to provide top-notch security and investigative skills to their clients.
When a young engineer (Scott) blows the whistle on a dangerous technology, she joins the Townsend Agency and teams with veteran Angels Sabine (Stewart) and Jane (Balinska) to help save the world.
An international organization of badass lady spies fighting to save the world? James Bond, eat your heart out.
If the trailers and the synopsis, which highlights how much we should all worship at the altar of Kristen Stewart, didn’t sell it for you, then perhaps the critical consensus will. Let’s break down what the critics think about Charlie’s Angels.
What the critics are saying about Charlie’s Angels
Like previous incarnations of Charlie’s Angels on film, critical reaction has been decidedly mixed. As press time, the film is holding a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 65%.
The first go at a Charlie’s Angels film franchise back in 2000, which starred Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and ageless goddess Lucy Liu, holds a 68%. It’s about the same as previous attempts to make the classic Farrah Fawcett TV series into a film franchise.
Largely, the critical consensus is that Stewart is having the time of her life, a genuine attempt at exploring modern gender politics and empowerment. The drawbacks appear to be direction and script. Banks, who wrote, directed, and acted in the film, tried doing everything and apparently didn’t entirely succeed.
“It’s an initial relief to find that Banks hasn’t decided to go the way of so many reboots and bring us a grounded, gritty take on featherlight material, and it’s her awareness of the inherent silliness of the franchise that proves to be one of the film’s saving graces. It’s never taken too seriously, and thus is hard to dislike, a disposable film aware of its own disposability.”
—Benjamin Lee, The Guardian
“A concept in search of a movie, Charlie’s Angels wants to take the venerable franchise in a new direction. The goal is exemplary, the execution nothing to write home about.”
—Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times
“The new Charlie’s Angels is a heavier chunk of escape than any previous “Angels” incarnation — if the early-2000s films were pop, this one is metal. Yet that’s part of its timely appeal.”
—Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“The plot isn’t especially clever or unpredictable (and it relies a bit too hard on a red herring that few viewers are liable to buy), but the story is told with enough flash and energy that it doesn’t really matter.”
—David Ehrlich, IndieWire
While the critics agree that there is something missing to make Charlie’s Angels exceptional, most believe that it’s fun for what the film is. Here are a couple reasons why you should go make Charlie proud by seeing the Angels in actions.
Kristen Stewart is everything
Stewart has tried her hardest to escape the unforgiving shadow of Twilight. While the films have recently been embraced for their camp factor, Stewart just had nothing to work with as Bella Swan. For the most part, the actress has stuck to indie films in which she has truly come into her own as an actress, like former co-star Robert Pattinson. It’s a common path for young actors who blast out of the gate with blockbusters.
Charlie’s Angels, according to critics, is Stewart’s movie; she nails every part of heiress-turned-Angel Sabina. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, who gave the film a B, called Stewart a new “comedy icon”:
“Known for her sullen performances and fidgety mannerisms, Stewart has always been drawn to low-status parts that contradict her persona and make it difficult to forget who you’re watching.
“So while her puckish and sarcastic turn as an heiress-turned-Angel might seem like a major pivot away from the likes of Adventureland or Personal Shopper, Stewart is an actress who wants to be seen, and she wears each of her latest character’s disguises with the confidence of someone who’s already spent a lifetime hiding in plain sight.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman was also effusive in his praise for Stewart, whom he called a star that “glitters more intensely” than in her younger Twilight years:
“As Sabina, Stewart exudes a flashing-eyed magnetism that brushes her moodier mannerisms aside, yet she hasn’t let go of the thing they express — her need to survey every situation. In Charlie’s Angels, she’s a spy who’s spying on everyone in the room, even her comrades.”
Collider’s Peter Nemiroff simply added that Stewart owns the screen whenever she’s on it:
“Stewart crushes it as the comedic relief in the film, delivering a whole batch of winning one-liners and just being an all-around sheer joy to watch in this type of film.”
Charlie’s Angels seems to be a showcase of how much Stewart has grown in the intervening years post-Twilight. We hope the release leads to some more comedic work for the actress down the line.
The other Angels get their due
Out of the three main Angels, Stewart will get the most attention as the biggest name. Don’t count out the supporting cast, especially Scott, who scored major praise for her turn as Jasmine in the live-action Aladdin, and newcomer Balinska. The two other Angels hold their own.
Variety’s Gleiberman praised the other leads alongside Stewart, saying that they held their own as characters without resorting to quirk.
“Ella Balinska infuses Jane with a high command, though it’s not as if she’s all imperious poses. It’s part of the film’s brashness that she can take a moment, in the middle of a heist, to pour condiments on the sandwich of an adorable-hunk lab assistant (Noah Centineo) and then take a flirtatious bite. And Naomi Scott, as Elena, has a playful sensual curiosity that makes you think of Sarah Michelle Gellar.”
Nemiroff praised how Scott uses her newbie Angel’s “bumbling qualities to great effect”. He also praised Balinska’s big screen debut, praising her presence on the screen:
“She’s got no trouble commanding the frame while doing just about everything from selling Jane as a deadly force to having an amusing meet-cute to effortlessly selling the movie’s sole emotional moment.”
In some films, the only saving grace can be the chemistry between the cast members. It sounds like Scott, Stewart, and Balinska possess that in spades.
A genuine attempt to interject female empowerment
Not every movie about badass women saving the world can have such an effortlessly empowering moment as Wonder Woman walking across No Man’s Land in 2017. Even so, the fact that this is the first Charlie’s Angels property to be directed by a woman means there will be attempts to get an “empowering” message across.
Whether or not it works, however, has definitely divided critics. Some appreciated the attempt, while others found Charlie’s Angels lays on the “girl power” message a little too thickly. Sometimes the most empowering thing you can do is show, not tell. The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee gave the film three out of five stars. He appreciated the attempt at interjecting the film with modern gender politics.
“While a sharper awareness of how men underestimate the skills and physical competency of women is nicely heightened and the trio are made to be sexy without being turned into sex objects, there are other flourishes that don’t work as well.”
Slashfilm’s Hoai-Tran Bui gave the film a 6 out of 10 rating. She found Banks’s role as the first female director in the franchise caused her to overload montages of girls doing things at random. Ultimately, however, she found the overload a bit charming.
“The ‘rah-rah’ feminism of Charlie’s Angels is simple, to be sure, but effective. Maybe the cynic in you will roll your eyes when Stewart declares that girls can do anything, but the optimist in you would gladly give your life to be part of a crew so cool, so empowered, and so well-dressed.”
If a film leaves us wanting to be part of a well-dressed and empowered girl squad, maybe we can overlook some of its flaws.
Should you go see Charlie’s Angels?
Are a great cast, stellar performance from Kristen Stewart, fondly remembered source material, and earnest attempt at making sure that those who identify as women in the audience get a feeling of empowerment from seeing the film enough? If not, Sir Patrick Stewart’s in Charlie’s Angels, and he’s always great to see while we wait for Picard to drop.