Yeah, I watched this. Apparently this has something of a cult following? And is actually good? I was intrigued—cautiously, but intrigued all the same.
This may come as a shock to people, but I have very little experience with Josie and the Pussycats by Archie Comics. Hold your gasps, please; I realize that it seems completely up my alley, yet I only know it through whispers and bizarre animated music videos through Boomerang. Hell, American comics in general are outside of my field of interests. When I look at screenshots of this, I only think of films of a similar nature, like Jem and the Holograms. Now, I haven’t seen that one, but I’ve heard it’s… “not great.”
So imagine my surprise seeing this on Letterboxd, with a very respectable 3.4/5 average rating and the top reviews being 4.5/5, 5/5, and 5/5-star reviews. What? This? Is this purely the aesthetic of the film fitting the community on the site? Or is there something more to it? With so many serious films so far this month, I shrugged and gave it a shot.
Yeah. Pretty solid, surprisingly.
Let me try and summarize this film in a way that I understand but others will probably find incomprehensible. It’s pseudo-dumb. Writing, characters, situations, etc., all come across as silly, over-the-top, and pretty dumb. Despite that, there are some pretty clever things under the surface that the film wants to say… in parts. Corporate entities playing with the idea of complete control, messages of thinking for oneself, vaguely anti-consumerist tendencies—presented in a goofy manner, though established nonetheless. They even make winks at blatant racism in the advertising space.
Josie and the Pussycats teeters along the lines of a straightforward, rags-to-riches story and a satire of the price of fame / the evil of big business. Some scenes come across as the former, others like the latter. A few hours removed from watching—and this may be my bias speaking—it seems more satirical. Not quite to the level of, say, Monty Python or what have you. Its trajectory is still rather cliché, with implementations of a chance encounter, immediate success, and the eventual unraveling and group conflict in need of resolution. Those were the more boring parts—how I wished it remained off-script.
I can also see why this has the following that it does. An overall goofy nature that knows what it is, taking its shots in jabs all throughout. This could definitely make an endearing way of having people commit to the idea that obsessing over trends and “the in thing” is overrated and makes you an obnoxious person. Sorry, my hipster bias slipped out. A wholesome message of togetherness among the three female leads, which does shine through in the performances. While “cozy” isn’t the word I’d most use to describe the experience of watching it, it wouldn’t be a bad adjective.
Of course, I’m watching this as a 27-year-old man, attempting to break free of the deeply-rooted scars of cynicism. If one had watched this as an impressionable teenager, or with a mindset of altruism and a penchant for emotionality, it’d probably leave a more lasting impact. It’s definitely quotable enough, and if I’m going to be gushy for just a moment, Rachael Leigh Cook’s hair is everything. Hard to pinpoint why; it just agrees with me.
Props should also go to the performances of Alan Cumming and Parker Posey, who play the evil corporation representatives that sign The Pussycats to a record deal. They’re certainly not “Oscar-worthy” (because heaven forbid a comedic performance wins that), but the affable charm to their smarmy, two-faced characters helps to carry the film tremendously. Posey specifically commands a lot of attention through the completely unnerving traits of her character’s psyche. Humorous, odd, and captivating all the same.
Briefly I mentioned the “cliché” nature of the plot, which is by far the weakest aspect of the film. Since the start, the band members always emphasize how they’ll always be friends and nothing will get in their way. Gee, you think something will get in their way? There also exists a subplot where Josie is involved in a sexually tensile relationship with the “sexiest guy in Riverdale” (he’s not that sexy—I got my heterosexual sister’s opinion as back-up). The usual beats you’d expect, and by the time it starts, it’s already in the “Eh, uh, umm, haha, I’m so awkward around you” phase. So obvious, and adds nothing to the film.
Another example of a film I’d probably spit on years ago, I’ve found myself… smitten by these kittens. Now that I’ve disappointed you, I’ll end this by stating that those more expectant of things such as “cohesion” or “serious drama” will find nothing here. It’s a goofy, mildly clever, and wholesome story of attaining fame and staying true to yourself. It has all the evidence of being regarded as a “chick flick” by dudebros everywhere, and for that, I think this film enjoys a nice renaissance in an age where people are more tolerant and open to change and—PFFFFFFFFFFF
Final Score: 6/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!