November 2, 2020

BINGE | Anya Taylor-Joy Wins 'The Queen's Gambit' on Netflix

"My tranquility needs to be refurbished."
Anya Taylor-Joy Scott Frank | The Queen's Gambit on Netflix
Wonderful Films
Acclaimed screenwriter Scott Frank adapts novelist Walter Tevis' mid-century chess prodigy novel into a sumptuously realized and absorbing dramatic miniseries about a troubled orphan girl excelling in a man's game. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy alongside her stunning eyes and face, The Queen's Gambit makes competitive chess look sexy for an entirely engrossing seven-episode endeavour full of drama and intrigue in spades.

Despite its authentic seeming period and historical global setting in the cutthroat world of chess championship tournaments, the entirely fictional story weaves in and out of the thick of the Cold War rivalry touching on the evolving feminist waves in 1960s America. Its sly exploration of sexism, trauma, and alcoholism through chess play are enhanced by the lush cinematography, gorgeous costuming, and impeccable production design.

How Frank, who wrote and directed every episode, crafts the process and burden of becoming a prodigy by both embracing and rejecting its notion due to mental illness, anxiety, and loss make the game all the more compelling. These themes are felt through the many chess matches visualized by focusing on the players' faces to reflect their inner turmoil and conflict.

Anya Taylor-Joy Scott Frank | The Queen's Gambit on Netflix

Taylor-Joy is stunning and exciting in her star-making lead performance as a self-destructive yet glamorous, high-functioning addict as she carries the entire series effortlessly. Co-starring actress turned director Marielle Heller as her depressed, alcoholic adoptive mother who takes in the wayward but gifted Kentucky teenager in Taylor-Joy's Beth Harmon, the stylish show even gives the psychology of chess an alluring impression to its movements and strategies.

Frank impressively ties in so many elements into The Queen's Gambit by using the game of chess and the orphan narrative to encapsulate obvious American feminist ideals set in a restrictive but changing period in history. Its familiar material about overcoming adversity and family tragedy through sheer focus and determination to excel while indulging or self-medicating in vices makes everything feel all the more fleshed out.

The Queen's Gambit is available to stream on Netflix.


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