How often do we come across stories of rich kids going ballistic about their money? By ballistic, I mean going all around carrying out burglaries and never looking back at it as a crime. We’ve seen Bling Ring by Sofia Coppola, which dealt with a similar setup. Barracuda Queens brings you a story of young girls from affluent families robbing the homes of the rich just because they want to and takes us through the rich and middle-class divide layered with drama and humor.
Directed by Amanda Adolfsson, the six-part Netflix series is set in the year 1995 and begins with a bunch of 20-year-old girls from Djursholm, Sweden, waking up in a hotel far away from their homes, followed by an astronomical bill to settle for the same place. Among the four women in the group—Louise, Klara, Frida, and Mia—only Mia came from a not-so-affluent family. The four of them are finding ways to pay off the debt when they are joined by a new girl, Amina, who also happens to be from a wealthy family. The five of them rob a house in their neighborhood, and from then on, it becomes an addiction for them. Will their spree ever come to an end, or will they keep on robbing people and going unnoticed by law enforcement authorities?
The story and the premise of the show are interesting, and it gains traction pretty much in the first episode in just 30 minutes, but again, just like many Netflix Originals in the recent past, the narrative fizzles out very quickly thanks to writers beating around the bush with the MO of the girls. The pacing of the show gets affected in the last two episodes because it feels like the writers are going around a lot to tie up loose ends. Only if the screenplay was tight enough to keep the storytelling smooth and engaging till the end. There is a subplot about two people with starkly different personalities dating each other briefly. It did not make sense to introduce this plot, for it did not serve any purpose in the overall narrative, especially leading to the climax.
The screenplay in the pre-climax and in the end was written and executed haphazardly, which ruined the fun element of the show. Amanda Adolfsson’s direction was excellent in the first four episodes because it allowed the story to grow organically. This made the characters believable, and despite their drawbacks, many were pure delight. I only wish the writing in the last episodes retained the pacing instead of making it all messy. The part where the police are investigating the robbery is also very lazily written, and it fails to create any tension, which is an important component of such genres.
But what makes this show endearing is the 90s nostalgia attached to the overall arc. The fashion, the hairstyles, the cars, the songs, and all the references from that time in the show are spot on. There was no CCTV footage or any mobiles or cell phone towers to nab the culprits. These loopholes were showcased to help the current generation understand why it was difficult to trace burglars. I am sure many kids of this era will probably not relate to the small television, land phone connections, and fashion of that decade, but I am happy the makers did not overtly indulge in the nostalgia factor of the 90s and stuck to the storytelling.
Another rousing aspect of this show is that it is helmed by women. The director and the writers are women, and it allowed the story to be spoken from a female perspective without overtly indulging in preachiness. There is a lot of importance given to female bonding, friendships, and not falling for the catfight troupe. Mothers who were devoid of marital happiness and pleasure were looking for avenues outside of their marriages with their spouses, which, of course, is something not many have done in the past. Women who have been mothers for almost two decades have desires, and they have been explored quite well.
It also spoke a lot about how men were misogynistic toward the women in their lives. A man who has been with countless women is considered a stud, but a lead character in the film is shamed by her mother and her brother for being a woman by stating that she has a reputation at stake. It was an era that saw many women holding top positions at work, but they were reduced to someone whose reputation would decide the legacy of their family and their life going forward. A man could marry a younger woman, but women dating younger men is frowned upon, and there is countless gossip around it. These are some of the topics that are dealt with, and I am so glad as a woman that it was done the right way.
The writers also dealt with the class divide aspect, where the rich were never questioned for the robberies that were going on, but the women from the middle class and working class were immediately questioned and forced to answer. It allowed us to understand that the divide between the rich and not-so-rich still existed. The other flaw of the show that could not be ignored was glorifying the crime and making the narrative seem as if there would be no repercussions for the action they committed. Only if the writers had stressed this aspect a lot more instead of indulging the girls in having fun while robbing people with zero consequences in sight. The climax also reinforces this narrative, which comes across as problematic.
The cinematography by Ragna Jorming is stunning because it allows the audience to understand the emotions every girl goes through growing up. She thinks this is normal, but soon, they unearth many unpleasant truths about their parents and get to know that they, too, have flaws. The camerawork was subtle, yet it conveyed so many emotions. The costumes and the production have to be noted, for they brought to life an era that is close to many of our hearts.
The performances stand out for all the right reasons because the five leading ladies in this show are exceptional. Alva Bratt, as Louise, aka Lollo, is brilliant as the rich brat who stands by her friends in times of adversity. Tea Stjärne as Mia, Sarah Gustafsson as Amina, Sandra Strandberg Zubovic as Frida, and Tindra Monsen are some of the finest finds of Netflix because all of their characters come from various backgrounds, but still, they end up becoming each other’s strength, which is delightful to watch on screen. Barracuda Queens, despite its many drawbacks, somehow works because there is sincerity attached to it, and the makers stick to the genre instead of meandering away from it. This one is a good watch.