Fashion is a topic that I know virtually nothing about. For me, a simple shirt and jeans will suffice when going out into town or sitting around the house, I don’t really care if it’s fashionable or cool. Someone who does know about fashion is Sophia Amoruso whose days selling vintage clothes on eBay eventually led to her founding the women’s clothing retailer dubbed Nasty Gal, a highly successful venture that made eventually made her a millionaire.
It’s this story that is the basis of the Netflix comedy-drama Girlboss, a fictionalised depiction of the bumpy path to fame and fortune that eventually saw Amoruso being named by Forbes as one of the most successful self-made women in the world.
It’s 2006, and 23-year-old Sophie is struggling to meet ends meet while living in San Francisco. Fired from her latest job, Sophie finds her niche in the world of vintage clothes, buying clothes cheaply from the city’s many thrift shops and “flipping” them by reselling them on eBay for higher prices. This venture proves to be merely the beginning of a bumpy road that will see her success grow, but also see her relationships with friends and family strained, as she attempts to find her way in the world.
Britt Robertson (no relation to myself as far as I’m aware) takes the lead role as Sophia Marlowe a fictionalised version of Amoruso. Robertson gives a spot-on performance as Sophia, full of snark, sarcasm and an unquenchable hunger for success. However, Sophia’s quick witted, often abrasive and frankly selfish personality does make the character very difficult to like at times, with her often terrible attitude often being the root of her own problems in life.
On the other hand, though, the character herself is very much aware of her unlikeable nature, such as in one scene in which she asks herself “Why am I such an asshole?”. Or more noticeably when she allows her own greed and selfishness to effectively ruin her relationship with her best friend, weeping as she does so.
It’s a character that would have been so easy to make detestable, but Robertson’s nuanced and sometimes manic performance manages to add humanity and humour to the character and saves her from being wholly unlikeable in my view.
Robertson’s fine leading turn is back up by an equally fine supporting cast, such as Ellie Reed as Sophia’s best friend Annie, an almost perpetually cheerful happy go lucky sort who joins Sophia on her quest for success, whose banter often gives the show some of its funniest lines. Reed’s character also allows for one of the series’s best episodes, in which a seemingly trivial argument leads to an extended flashback as to how Annie and Sophia met, culminating in a moving poolside declaration of love and friendship.
Dean Norris also gives a fine turn as Sophia’s father, always concerned about his daughter’s financial security, but not quite certain that her ambitions will grant her the success and independence she craves. A quiet monologue in which he recalls a moment from his daughter’s childhood involving a piece of string is easily one of the series’s most poignant moments, with Norris performing the piece beautifully.
Props should also be given to Melanie Lynskey’s quirky performance as Gail, a fellow vintage fashion aficionado who quickly becomes Sophia’s nemesis. Much like Reed, Lynskey’s performance makes for one of the best episodes of the series (if not the best) in which she and Sophia discuss why the are so passionate about vintage clothes, with Gail telling a tragic story of a lonely girl reconnecting with her dead mother through the clothes she left behind. It’s a fine performance that almost steals the show, with it being one of sadness, weirdness and quirky humour that eventually leads into one of the more humorous story arcs of the series.
The series is not all smooth sailing though and I’ll admit that after viewing the first few episodes I was tempted to abandon it. I didn’t find the jokes all that funny, I couldn’t relate to the central characters and I was finding Sophia’s abrasive personality becoming somewhat grating. It’s this initial problem that is likely to cost the show its audience, people are not going to like the premise or the show’s humour, which often feels like it’s about to drown on the sheer abundance of snark on display.
However, by about the fourth episode, I found myself starting to enjoy the series, the jokes started to get funnier and the characters a little but more likeable as we delved a bit more into their back stories. The episode recalling the early days of Sophia and Annie’s friendship is definitely what saved the series for me and motivate me to keep watching.
Although even though I came to enjoy the series more as time went on, the various subplots still irritated me somewhat, such as the relationship between Annie and her boyfriend Dax which I frankly didn’t care much for, nor did the series for that matter it, with the story feeling like it kind of amounted to nothing special by the end.
The series also falls into the usual melodramatic cliches of comedy-drama with the friends falling out, or a cheating boyfriend rearing his head, stuff that ultimately the series could have done without or handled with a slight degree more originality. Not enough to really ruin the series, but regardless it still annoyed me a bit.
Girlboss is a show that’s likely to divide audiences between the lovers, the haters and those who really don’t care. With fine performances from leading actress Robertson and her supporting cast, a mostly enjoyable albeit highly fictionalised retelling of one woman’s real life road to success and a quick pace flies past, Girlboss is overall a highly flawed but otherwise decent show. Give it a watch if you’re curious.
Comedy | USA, 2017 | 15 | Streaming Now | Netflix | Creator.Kay Cannon |Britt Robertson, Ellie Reed, Johnny Simmons