In my other life while working on cruise ships, many artists would congregate after performances in each other’s cabin to hang out, share stories or maybe grab a snack or cocktail. One night, a friendly gathering of artists quickly shifted into a gross violation almost resulting in non-consensual relations. Unfortunately, this is a story that is not uncommon amongst unsuspecting, naive young women. It’s a premise that has been explored in numerous films where the women have either been portrayed as sluts, liars or women simply based on their wardrobe were somehow ‘asking for it.’
Let’s explore that shall we? If a woman is kind, attentive and happens to be somewhat attractive revealing any portion of skin in the presence of a room or venue mostly filled with men is that really an invitation for physical violation? The award-winning playwright Tennessee Williams once said, “…we are all victims of rape by society…aren’t we?”
After running into her old friend Mike (Casey Cott) during her diner shift, small town waitress Joey (Kiersey Clemons) agrees to go on a date resulting in a sexual assault. In the midst of all this, one of her regulars Regina (Alexandra Shipp) introduces her to The Cherry Bombers. This an all femme gang including Beatrice (Vanessa Hudgens), Lily (Leslie Stratton), Sal (Radha Mitchell), Jett (Leyna Bloom), Angie (Lisa Yaro), Fala (Casey Camp-Horinek), and Rudy (Gabourey Sidibe) have all suffered their share of past traumas bond to fight a misogynistic society by targeting violent frat boys, a corrupt police force of human traffickers led by Sheriff Morel (David Patrick Kelly), and the dangerous alt-right group MFM (Men’s First Movement) headed by Mark Vanderhill (Ezra Miller). As Joey is drawn further into their chaotic world, Sal’s old flame, Logan County Sheriff Vernon (Luke Hemsworth), investigates MFM, who has an ideology toward women that “…no don’t mean no – it means try harder.”
Vanessa Hudgens has finally shed that Disney-ish image as Beatrice. She’s a doll who means what she says and says what she means, but always with an one eye open energy. Yet, she is in total command every single second. Producer Kiersey Clemons once again proves there are no boundaries to her talent. As Joey, we witness the inner turmoil this physical violation on her psyche, spirit and ability to ponder whether or not she will ever try or love again. Alexandra Shipp as Regina is sexy, etherial and badass all at once. Baby, the things she does with a pocket knife will give you life as will the moment she and the squad save a young women being beaten by her boyfriend.
What I appreciate most is that O’Rourke didn’t create a bunch of whiny, dependent women who suddenlty become empowered. Instead, he created a group of confident, smart and capable dolls who have literally decided to take charge so that the one coming behind them doesn’t have to experience that pain, humiliation and self-loathing that comes along with these violent, selfish acts of hatred.
As the director and writer, Eamon O’ Rourke, in his screen debut, has created a thought provoking, kinetic tale where women are taking their power and control back while kicking butt and taking names. Not to mention a slight detour with a powerful message around driving while black and female. O’Rourke’s approach to these very serious, timely and vital issues are fresh, awe-inspriing and a glimpse into a filmmaker with his finger on the pulse while blowing any and all precious expectations in how cinema approaches and tells these stories moving forward.