review in pieces on Amazon

KIDS ON BIKES

Paper Girlswhich was published between 2015 and 2019 by Image Comics (and published in France by Urban Comics), takes place in a small American suburb at the end of the 80s and tells the story of four young newspaper delivery girls on an adventure through time.

Brian K. Vaughan’s comic strip (Y: The Last Man, Saga) and Cliff Chiang (HumanTarget, wonder woman), with its retro aesthetic, neon colors, references to pop culture, science fiction imagination and immediately endearing characters who travel by bicycle, possessed this charm specific to the productions of Amblin of this time. This simple, tender and melancholy atmosphere that Stranger Things recovered and revivede almost at the same time to become an incredible phenomenon.

Spielbergian decor par excellence

Therefore, like the comics from which it is taken, the series by Stephany Folsom, Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers which lands on Amazon Prime Video will inevitably be associated with that of Netflix and be perceived as an opportunistic response or imitation, even though they are very different.

Beyond the fact that the characters are girls instead of boys, like most 80s movies, Stranger Things focus on nostalgiathe assumed homage and the excessive reference in an entertainment with ever more spectacular horror accents, while Paper Girls uses time travel and fantasy elements to draw the viewer in to explore what happens when the hopes of childhood and the past collide with the reality of adulthood and the present (or the future, depending on the point of view).

Paper Girls: PhotoThe club of four

THIS IS NOT A GIFT

At the beginning, Paper Girls faithfully follows the plot of the comics and shows the meeting between Erin (Riley Lai Nelet) Tiffany (Camryn Jones), Mac (Sofia Rosinsky) and KJ (Fina Strazza) in 1988 without wasting time. In just half an hour, the four delivery girls gather to protect themselves from the dangers they face during their rounds as women, and from the opening episode, the band finds themselves propelled into the futurein 2019, caught in a temporal war between two camps: those who would like to change the past and those who want reality to remain the same at all costs.

Then, during the eight episodes of this first season, the screenplay gradually moves away from its source material and its breathless sci-fi narrative to focus on its characters and the relationships between these four young girls who believe themselves invincible, but who are deeply vulnerable. Thus, behind the temporal gadgets, the giant robots and the interdimensional conflicts, the series contains a much richer and more exciting story around preteen friendship and questions that surround this age of change, discovery and uncertainty.

Paper Girls : photo Sofia Rosinsky, Riley Lai NeletThe future ahead or behind?

Erin, Mac, KJ and Tiffany each shine with that transgressive youthful spark, this naive enthusiasm that suggests that there are no limits, that everything is possible. However, when they see what has become of them or their families, innocence usually gives way to surprise, pain or disillusion. This is also where the series touches and upsets: by also encouraging those who watch it to remembering his/her childhood dreams and what he/she did with them to draw up its own introspective assessment.

With as much precision as sensitivity, Paper Girls then offer another vision of coming of age, tinged with bittersweet sentimentand interrogates notions of free will and destiny while using time paradoxes and time lags between the 1980s and our time to address topics such as feminism, racism, sorority, love, homosexuality or nostalgia for this fantasized period.

Paper Girls: photo, Ali Wong, Riley Lai NeletErin and Erin

As teenage girls find themselves confronted with events that are beyond them and face truths that they are not necessarily ready to accept, the emotion of the series resides first of all in these emotional bonds and these temporal connections which take shape and intertwine delicately, in small strokes. A tenderness that carries the series, despite its wobbly rhythm, and which translates into intimate, funny or touching scenes, whether during the collective reading of a stamp notice, a two-way conversation on the films of Stanley Kubrick Where a simple static shot during a motorcycle ride.

Obviously, this captivating little group would be nothing without Riley Lai Nelet, Fina Strazza, Camryn Jones and Sofia Rosinsky or their future incarnations, Ali Wong for Erin and Sekai Abenì for Tiffany. Some sometimes fall into overplay during a few scenes, but the young actresses all show disconcerting talentwhile most are making their screen debut or finding themselves headlining for the first time.

And besides the impressive resemblance between the actresses and their paper counterparts or the facial expressions that teenage girls can share with their adult versions, the union of all these women through time against antagonists called the Prioress (Adina Porter) and Grand- Father (Jason Mantzoukas) gives the series an even stronger emotional and symbolic power.

Paper Girls : photo Fina Strazza, Sofia Rosinsky, Camryn Joneswindow on heart

DÉJÀ VU

Unfortunately, as soon as the comic book narrative reasserts itself and the show abandons its teenage drama and returns to hard-core sci-fi, emotion gives way to boredomi. The explanations are sloppy or incomprehensible, the scenario lengthens with laborious sub-plots or random characters (which explains why the duration of the episodes varies between 38 and 56 minutes) and, lack of budget, the result looks like a bad TV movie or a series B.

Most of the time, the realization is rather neat and is confined to interior scenes to play the economy as much as possible, counting on the marvelous electronic score of Bobby Krlic (Midsommar) to reinforce the peaceful or anxiety-provoking atmosphere depending on the situation with sounds borrowed from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (with whom he collaborated on hacker and Triple 9) .

Paper Girls : photo Sofia Rosinsky, Riley Lai Nelet, Camryn JonesDark Alley Number 64

On the other hand, from the moment she tries to bring Cliff Chiang’s boxes to life, to film action scenes or to generate suspense, Paper Girls cruelly lacking in resources and represents a sad disappointment for anyone. The curious viewer stumbled upon it by chance, the fan of Stranger Thingsand even more for those who have read the comics and who knows what the adaptation could have given if Amazon had granted it a little more budget (by drawing on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power or the tasteless The Terminal Listrandomly).

Thus, the teeming universe of comics, made of bright colors, giant tardigrades, organic time machines and landscapes from another time is now represented only by digital clouds, pink lights, ridiculous costumes and special effects passable at best, dismal at worst.

Paper Girls: PhotoLife in pink, very pink

Some elements of the comics still appear on screen when the characters find themselves outside or in large spaces, but the staging and the technical and artistic means are clearly not living up to the expectations or ambitions of the series.

The final episode may end with the promise of a more exciting second season, which should exploit all the fantastic potential of the original work, but Paper Girls still needs to consolidate its gains and fixed many storytelling and visual effects flaws if she wants to avoid suffering from the comparison with Stranger Things or to look like something other than a broke production of the genre.

Paper Girls is available in full on Amazon Prime Video since July 29, 2022

Season 1: Official Poster

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