When women do things that were previously reserved for men, does that suddenly make their actions feminist, or just, uh, well, whatever those things were that men did? Two years ago, Jennifer Lopez caused a furore with the “feminist stripper movie” Hustlers, about a group of strippers who defrauded Wall Street bankers, yet within the genre of the heist and buddy film tried to paint a slightly more complex picture of American culture that glorifies power, desire and greed. From the same production company there is now Queenpins, the poor little sister as it were: ex-Olympic champion Connie and her friend JoJo set up a scam in discount coupons. True story by the way.
In the United States, those coupons are quite a thing, not to be confused with food stamps. It concerns free calling cards with the purchase of toothpaste. Because of the idea that if you don’t go to Paris today, you can eat out tonight. To save unspent money. There is an ecosystem behind it that exposes social and class differences. Filling your entire baby’s room with free cereal and shampoo is not a long-term strategy. But that’s not what Queenpins is interested in in the first place. And that makes the mix of satire and slapstick according to the Catch Me If You Can model that immediately remains a lot less fun, because less layered, and therefore less venomous.
It would be so wonderful if comedies invested more in their characters. ‘Women’s crime is hip’, as one of them says, is not a sufficient motive. There is even a moralistic side to the whole thing. Because that’s where that childless baby room comes around the corner: Connie fills the void in her existence with stuff, she has a ‘coupon high’ (a serious phenomenon). Should she have listened to her husband, who is a tax inspector, after all: take a job? Or not spend all her money on expensive IVF treatments?
Queenpins Regie: Gita Pullapilly, Aron Gaudet. Met: Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Vince Vaughn, Joel McHale. In: 26 Bioscopen
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A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 15 September 2021 A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of 15 September 2021