Rating: 3 out of 5
Something about the timing of the release of “Girlboss” which celebrates entrepreneur Sophia Amuroso, feels a little off. Netflix’s “Girlboss” is an adaptation of Amoruso’s memoir of the same name, chronicling her rise from shoplifting, dumpster-diving college dropout to owner of Nasty Gal and member of multiple Forbes lists. While the show was being filmed, Nasty Gal, declared bankruptcy. By the time the show was released this Friday, the company had switched owners and Amoruso rebranded herself as a feminist lifestyle guru.
“Girlboss” starts in 2008, as an unsatisfied, Sophia (Britt Robertson), struggles to find what she wants to do with the rest of her life. While she’s out looking for vintage clothing she finds an amazing metallic leather jacket for $12, which she manages to sell for hundreds on Ebay. She decides to create a business buying and reselling vintage clothes online.
Robertson plays Sophia with gleeful abandon, as she runs around San Francisco trying to start her business and burning bridges with everyone she knows and loves. She’s self destructive and has a terribly entitled attitude, but it’s framed as quirkiness. It’s fun, but after seeing Sophia consistently be rude and borderline abusive to people trying to help her, you’re left with a desire to slap Sophia for being so ridiculously self-obsessed and unable to rely on anyone. Guest star Louise Fletcher, playing a cranky senior citizen who Sophia vents to, gets to do so in her two (very satisfying) cameo appearances.
Each episode begins with a title card saying, “A loose retelling of true events. Real loose,” as if to excuse Sophia’s narcissistic brand of emotional terrorism as something fictional and funny, but after multiple (very real) lawsuits about unfair termination and employee harassment, it’s hard to see Amoruso (and her fictional counterpart) as anything more than a “garbage person,” as she calls herself multiple times in the show.
The truth of the matter is that “Girlboss” is at its best when Sophia isn’t around, or when the script allows her to show a sliver of vulnerability beneath her cool-girl veneer. Sophia’s best friend Annie (played by a delightfully sunny Ellie Reed) is the only person who really manages to get through to her, and contributes much of the comic relief in the show. Their conversations, written by Pitch Perfect screenwriter Kay Cannon, are littered with inside jokes that sound just like conversation with your actual friends, and help humanize Sophia.
Their fight about Annie’s role in the company is heartbreaking, and leads to one of the best scenes in the show. The show imagines their AIM chat-room fight as an empty white room, where Sophia and Annie sit and talk flatly, almost like robots, as their eyes well up, revealing that Sophia does care about someone other than herself. Sophia’s other relationship, with her drummer boyfriend Shane (an underutilized Johnny Simmons) is much less developed. While their scenes feature some of San Francisco’s most famous locations (like Chinatown) and cinematography, they fall flat because they’re both pretty boring characters outside of their artsy jobs.
Sophia’s San Francisco is sunny, colorful and full of tourist stops; it almost seems like an ad for the city’s travel association. Her first date with Shane, is full of landmarks like the Castro Theatre, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown and Lincoln Park. While the opening scene shows Sophia pushing her rusty car up Russian Hill as a cable car comes up behind her.
But the most visited part of her city is the Haight, where she finds most of the clothes she sells and has multiple tantrums. She lives above Recycled Records in an apartment literally overflowing with vintage clothes. One of the best parts of Sophia’s building is her neighbor Lucius (RuPaul) a stoner TSA agent and often ignored voice of reason.
While the protagonist is utterly hateable, “Girlboss” is still an easy comedy full of clever references to early 2000s culture (AIM, MySpace, “The OC”). The show is worth watching just for the shots of San Francisco, Sophia’s wardrobe (full of high-waisted bell bottoms, lace tops, platform boots and ‘70s jumpsuits,) and the soundtrack, bursting with girl power anthems (courtesy of Blondie, Le Tigre and Suzi Quatro) and early 2000s indie (Passion Pit, Modest Mouse, Silversun Pickups), with a little Fat Joe and Wheatus thrown in, makes you want to kick ass and take some names, much like Sophia ends up doing.
Photo Credit: Netflix