For once, I think, I’ve gotten on the pop culture train early. You know me – generally I catch on to a trend just about when the related merch hits the 50% off discount table. Last week, though, while browsing the offerings on Netflix, I noticed a seven episode series called the Queen’s Gambit. I knew nothing about it, having heard no hype whatsoever, but there was something about it that appealed and I settled in to view episode one.
The series, based upon the 1983 novel of the same name by author Walter Tevis, relates the fictional story of Elizabeth (Beth) Harmon a chess prodigy. Set in what I interpreted to be the 50s/60s in Kentucky, Beth is an orphan having lost her mother in a tragic, but not necessarily accidental, car crash. Placed in an orphanage, she finds a friend (Lenore), a chess mentor in the custodian, Mr. and an addiction to pills.
Adopted by a dysfunctional couple as a prepubescent chess prodigy, pill popper, Beth ultimately forms a close, but not necessarily healthy, relationship with her adoptive mom. Together, they travel the country for Beth to participate in well compensated tournaments around the country.
As Beth achieves greater success, the quality of her wardrobe improves and the costumes thrilled me. That era of understated, almost androgynous, fashion featuring impeccably cut pants with a crisp knife pleat and square cut bottom shirts with perfectly placed darts, is in my opinion, just so. damn. hot.
As the episodes advanced, I started really noticing the lighting and cinematography present. It is absolutely remarkable how well done the visuals are, how rich an experience was created by some very talented professionals. The use of shadows contrasted with the unblinking direct stare of Beth made it difficult to look away from the screen for even an instant for fear of missing something.
The musical soundtrack is also outstanding and used with perfect judiciousness to create and convey mood. Hair and makeup were totally in point and, when I’m finally sick of the length of my hair, I’m going with that sweet flipped bob Beth rocks during the last couple of episodes. I think the kids would call it fleek.
I found the characters to complex and rich and the acting was spot on, sensitive without maudliness and a treat to witness. I love this show. Check it out and let me know!