Published Apr 21, 2017Girlboss could've made for fascinating television.
The new Netflix series is based on the title and subsequent hashtag from the memoir of Sophia Amoruso, founder of former massive Silicon Valley clothing brand Nasty Gal. Hers is a story of hubris, the dangers of boom-and-bust capitalism and how those things can create a lethal concoction when paired with superficial catchphrase feminism.
Long before Hillary acolytes adopted the phrase "nasty woman" from Trump, Amoruso's Nasty Gal went from humble beginnings as an eBay vintage store to a company worth $180 million USD. Along the way, Nasty Gal lived up to its name, with an allegedly toxic work culture; according to reports, its many sins included firing multiple employees for taking pregnancy leave, among other problems.
Then, just last year, Nasty Gal faced its downfall. After plummeting profits, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, shuttering its two retail stores, head office and distribution warehouse after Amoruso jumped ship. Now, the brand exists in name only, having been bought out and revamped by British retailer Boohoo.
It's a tale nearly Shakespearean in scope, perfect for a Netflix series. Instead, Pitch Perfect writer Kay Cannon has removed much of the drama and settled for a disjointed and ultimately annoying origin story.
Britt Robertson does her best as Sophia (ridiculously characterized as an "anarchist misfit" in the show's official blurb), though the muddled storyline and lack of character development never really clarifies if we should be rooting for her or not. She's joined by her grating best friend Annie (Ellie Reed) and her abhorrent indie band manager boyfriend Shane (Johnny Simmons, a budget millennial James Van Der Beek).
Throughout the show, there are some brief glimmers of hope, thanks to its auxiliary characters. Sophia's father is played with gruff sympathy by Breaking Bad's Dean Norris (Robertson and Norris previously co-starred together in the laughably bad Stephen King series Under the Dome), and she eventually crosses paths with under-utilized characters from Norm MacDonald, Difficult People standout Cole Escala and MadTV star Nicole Sullivan. Though we've seen her play the character before, Melanie Lynskey's mousey vintage obsessive is a worthy adversary for Sophia. These characters offer respite in an otherwise painful slog.
For the most part, Girlboss attempts to pair light comedy with references to mid-2000s pop culture, and it's far too early to revisit that era. You'll find yourself experiencing maximum embarrassment chills at an alarming rate as characters revisit catchphrases like "dolla dolla bills y'all" while name-dropping the Polyphonic Spree and listening to schmaltzy acoustic covers of Modest Mouse's "Float On."
The bad comedy and eye-rolling sloganeering is made worse by the fact that Girlboss says virtually nothing about its titular boss girl. Occasionally, she struggles with her own cruel and selfish ego, but knowing what we know about the real-life Nasty Gal, the character study feels superficial. Here's hoping Girlboss files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy before inflicting another season on us.