Freak Show: It’s Cute, but the Script is Weak – Netflix Review

A queer teenager has to deal with moving to a Conservative high school.

SUMMARY

Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) is a young, flamboyant, and proudly gay kid who was raised by his very dramatic alcoholic mother “Muv” (Bette Midler). He ends up getting sent to live with his father (Larry Pine) and his nanny (Lorraine Toussaint) after Muv goes to rehab. Unfortunately, the local high school is extremely conservative, and Billy is immediately labeled a “Freak.” Rather than being ashamed, Billy tries to be even more outlandish and outspoken, and even makes a friend in Mary Jane (AnnaSophia Robb) and a friend/ambiguous love interest in Flip Kelly (Ian Nelson), but ends up being the target of a beating. After he recovers, Billy decides that he wants to be the first male homecoming queen, to the chagrin of Lynette (Abigail Breslin), the queen bee of the school, and to the delight of local reporter Felicia (Laverne Cox). 

His eyeshadow is on point.

END SUMMARY

This movie is so close to being great, but unfortunately only ends up at “good.” Lawther’s performance is fantastic, as you would expect if you’ve watched The End of the F***ing World. At one point he does a dramatic monologue as Zelda Fitzgerald that is so over the top that it seems like it should fail miserably… except that Lawther nails it. That’s basically how his role frequently feels in this movie. He’s written so over the top and so unrealistically self-aggrandizing that he doesn’t ever really ring true as a character, but somehow Lawther actually makes it work. It’s hard to make a character work when he’s constantly thinking about how much better he is than everyone, although the movie does make him inherently the underdog, and it’s even harder when the character seems so undeveloped. It’s not that Billy couldn’t be interesting, in fact much of what happens to him in the movie should be, it’s that he doesn’t really seem to grow at all during the course of the film. Maybe that’s supposed to reflect that he doesn’t need to change who he is, but we watch films to see a journey, and Billy doesn’t really go on one. 

I almost want to say that he does just because this outfit gets into the movie.

Similarly, we don’t really get the full impact of the journeys of any of the other people. Flip is depicted as a jock who is trying to figure out who he is, particularly given his interest in Billy and his love of culture, but we only get a little bit of that story because Flip also doesn’t seem to grow much. While having such static characters could work if everyone else in the film was changing, and the very end of the movie almost makes that point, it still feels like it only touches upon that theme. The movie seems more fixated on showing the glamorous side of Billy rather than his more human side. 

Although, his relationship with Bette Midler almost brings it out.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s only okay. I wouldn’t mess your hair up trying to get it on your watchlist.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Mini-Review – She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Seasons 2-4): It Got Better

After a mediocre first season, I was told to check in on She-Ra again. The results were promising.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Following the Battle of Bright Moon at the end of Season 1, all of the princesses are now united as one force against the Horde and their leaders: Hordak (Keston John), Catra (AJ Michalka), and Shadow Weaver (Lorraine Toussaint). In the second season, we see the first attempts by Adora/She-Ra (Aimee Carrero), Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara), and Bow (Marcus Scribner) to decipher a message from outside of the planet while leading a force composed of the other princesses: Perfuma, Frosta, Netossa, Spinnerella, and Mermista (Genesis Rodriguez, Merit Leighton, Krystal Joy Brown, Noelle Stevenson, and Vella Lovell). In Season 3, princess Entrapta (Christine Woods) is working with Hordak and Catra accidentally almost destroys reality. In Season 4, the team must deal with the fallout of Entrapta’s and Catra’s actions and must work to stop Hordak from cracking the ancient secret of Etheria. 

Image result for she-ra and the princesses of power
So many characters… but Entrapta’s still the best. 

END SUMMARY

So, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first season of this show. Almost every episode beyond the first one seemed formulaic and way too gimmicky. Every episode basically was “we find a new princess, solve her problem, she joins the team.” The second season was, at least, not repetitive, but it still had trouble finding its feet in terms of story direction and characterization (a few character personalities just seemed to change periodically). The third and fourth seasons, however, did show a remarkable increase in focus and cohesion. The arcs of the seasons made sense, were consistently paced, and actually had some weight to them.

Image result for she-ra and the princesses of power
It also metes out our “Adora vs. Catra” time pretty well, which we need.

The show did expand its focus on what is clearly the best part of the show: The interplay between the characters. We see Entrapta becoming “friends” with Hordak through their shared love of technology and Catra becoming jealous due to her insecurities. We see Scorpia (Lauren Ash) develop and finally try to act on her crush on Catra (with may not be romantic, I think it’s ambiguous). Despite the fantasy setting, most of the emotions are completely human and relatable to the viewer. Most of the character arcs, similarly, are understandable and fun.

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Seriously, find someone who looks at you the way that Scorpia looks at Catra.

While I still have issues with some parts of the writing (mostly that someone in the room needs to learn that there are more types of humor than “sarcastic monotone” and “wacky reactions”), I do appreciate that the show has gotten better. I still don’t put it up there with Gravity Falls or Adventure Time in terms of good children’s shows, but it is pretty good. Also, it’s up there with Steven Universe in representation, which is always a good thing when done organically like those shows do. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.