Girlboss Review: Britt Robertson Shines in Netflix Series

at .

Movies may not have found the strength of women in motion pictures yet, but television has realized their full potential.

Everywhere you look lately, there is another television show proving talented women can easily carry a series on their firm shoulders, and Girlboss is no different.

Girlboss is a series loosely (don't lose the word loosely) inspired by a book about a woman, written by a woman, starring women, and at least half produced and directed by women. And it's awesome.

The Jacket That Starts it All Vertical

I haven't read the book on which it's based, but as the opening credits will tell you, it's a very loose adaptation of New York Times best-selling book #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, founder of the fashion brand Nasty Gal. In fact, it's more of an inspiration than an adaptation.

The series itself was created by Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect 1& 2, 30 Rock), who also serves as showrunner and wrote 9 of the 13 episodes.

The point is, there is a lot of estrogen behind the scenes on this one, and it blends marvelously with the beautiful, flawed character of Sophia, played by Britt Robertson.

Robertson has spent the last few years focusing on her film career, but in television is where she really shines. She can easily slip into characters who are difficult to bear on screen, but who you fall in love with nonetheless.

She's at her best when given time to allow a character to grow. If she was playing Sophia for only two hours, I fear Girlboss might be a disaster. Thankfully, with 13 half-hour episodes, Robertson is given plenty of time and direction to work her magic. Sophia breathes as a result.

Sophia is one tough cookie. Estranged from her mother and sharing a difficult connection with her father (Under the Dome co-star Dean Norris), Sophia is on her own at a young age, forging her way with her best friend, Annie (Ellie Reed).

Fashion Photography

When the two meet, they are polar opposites, but their bond is immediate and strong. It is their relationship that bolsters Sophia's self-confidence, giving her the idea to sell her sense of self through vintage fashions on EBay. As a loner, Sophia sees nothing more attractive than working for herself and by herself.

But even creating Nasty Gal Vintage Fashions, her EBay business, isn't a solo project as much as Sophia wants to be doing her own thing and in it for herself. It's a success, sure, but no successful woman is an island.

It's not only her failures but her victories that bring to Sophia a lot of conflict as she struggles with what it means to be her own boss, to be successful, to provide herself with the basic needs such as medical insurance and to prove to her father she's doing well in life not only by her standards but by his, as well.

It's not all about the girls, though.

Sophia has a dating life she tries to squeeze into her busy schedule. She meets a musician named Shane (Johnny Simmons) and they attempt to keep a relationship going through tours while she persists in making a self-employed career a reality.

Cool and Breezy Sophia

When things go wrong or Sophia and Annie hit the skids, Sophia can become unbearable, unlikable and downright mean. She loses her sense of self, forgets why she's close to the people she needs the most.

It's in those moments you're reminded why Robertson is so right for the role of Sophia. In another actor's hands, it would be easy to consider brushing your hands of Sophia but not with Robertson.

She brings to life every human emotion inside of Sophia, every feeling you've ever had about a friend, every wrong decision you've made that you've wished you hadn't and every second you've condemned yourself to misery because of your own actions.

Ellie Reed, too, has as much bearing on the connection to Robertson. Together they feel like friends, and much of the series is focused on their compatibility. They carry the weight of Girlboss together, and their relationship is key to Sophia's business, as well as the tone of the first season overall.

If you don't buy into these characters and their every nuance, you won't buy into any of it.

But it's the very intimate look into this life they lead that what makes Girlboss special. Even when Sophia and Annie are out partying, it's still them against the world. Theirs are ties that bind, all others be damned.

Annie and Sophia Admire Handiwork

The characters see themselves through their very worst, even when that worst is thrown at each other.

And let's not pussyfoot around here, it's not a series about a friendship built on unicorns and rainbows, because Sophia, especially, is one flawed human being. But that's OK. A lot of us are, and that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to close relationships and success.

Hopefully, you learn from the awful things you put out to the universe. That's what Sophia does.

It's strange to think it was only 10 years ago we were using MySpace (is that even true?), and there is at least one episode where Internet forums are acted out on screen that is a lot of fun to watch (which today would probably be done over Twitter).

But overall, there isn't much contrast between the time the story took place and today.

RuPaul from Girlboss

When the storyline opens up beyond Sophia, Annie and Shane, we get to meet some other interesting characters, including Norm MacDonald as one of Sophia's treasured real-world bosses, RuPaul as a cool neighbor and Alphonso McAuley stars as a bartender and Annie's boyfriend, Dax.

As a girl with a tendency toward the nasty side, this spoke to me. But if you're hoping for an autobiographical presentation of Sophia Amoruso and all of the business, ahem, activities that surrounded her, read the book and skip this inspiration. They're two different stories. At least for now.

If there's a second season and the adventure continues on a more lifelike basis, we'll review that narrative at that time.

Girlboss Season 1 is setting the plan into motion and about a very realistic, flawed character who just so happens to be named Sophia and the equally realistic and flawed relationship she shares with Annie.

Sophia Hard at Work on Nasty Gal

Strong, flawed female relationships on television are always welcome, especially with the talented women surrounding this production. Like the character herself, the series could probably do with a few plot tweaks, but with strong characters, I have faith the story will get there in its own time.

The bottom line is it's fun to watch and even inspirational in a weird way. Sophia keeps picking herself up and brushing off her backside to fall flat on her arse once again, and if she can do it, so can we.

Girlboss Season 1 will drop on Netflix Friday, April 21.


Editor Rating: 3.8 / 5.0
  • 3.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

Show Comments
Tags: ,

Netflix Quotes

When I came to this country, I was a young man, but my heart was like yours. I was sad, angry, and scared. When I met Miriam, I didn't know we would fall in love. We started as friends, or she tried to be my friend, but I wasn't interested. We worked together at the World Relief Fund. I was so sad that we couldn't help all of the people. Miriam told stories from the Old Testament. About people who had so many troubles, slaves who wanted to leave the desert. They had no food nor water. But in all of this, God came to their rescue and helped them. I used to make fun of God. I was just like you. I didn't believe there was a God who can do wonders. Then, my life started to improve. The pain in my heart also started to fade away. I started to think about the slaves in the desert. I thought it was their will, their faith in each other, that made God possible in the desert. Maybe we make God. God does not make us. Kwesi, me and Miriam are not asking you to believe in what we believe in. Also, we are not asking you to think about us as your mother and father. We are telling you the important things so that you can follow and choose when you want.

Kwesi's Father

Jonathan: I notice a little bit of dryness on your cheek.
Tom: That’s my Lupus.
Jonathan: Okay, let’s talk about that a little. One thing I know about Lupus is that it’s all about SPF. Like, we have to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays because sun actually can cause inflammation and flare ups for people with Lupus.
Tom: Right...
[Cut to Jonathan’s confessional]
Jonathan: How you take care of yourself is how the world sees you, and he’s not taking care of himself.