Best Rated: ‘The Queens Gambit’ Series on 123Movies
If you enjoy chess, 1960s fashion, and possibly Anya Taylor-Joy, you’ll enjoy these TV series at 123Movies. You’ll need a cheap date for Netflix’s new seven-part series The Queen’s Gambit, which premieres on Friday. Beth Harmon, played by Taylor-Joy, is an outcast teen chess prodigy who grows up to become a celebrity chess casualty. Scott Frank, the writer-director, follows her from a filthy orphanage cellar to travelling the world duels with Soviet supermen. It’s a lovely period piece with the languid pace of a John Irving novel. Mawkish emotion and a clumsy last act compete with luscious set design and a darkly compelling lead performance. Even when it’s playing emotional checkers, it’s always entertaining to watch.
Beth is hungover and half-submerged in a bathtub when the series begins. She’s in an opulent Paris hotel suite, which appears to be in disarray. She gets dressed, discovers someone in her bed, takes a couple of tablets, and dashes downstairs. Her face is illuminated by flashbulbs. The entire international press is present to watch her play Russian Grandmaster Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorocinski). They provide a striking contrast. He’s a stern middle-aged communist, imposing and invisible, accompanied by his KGB retinue of bodyguard-jailers everywhere he goes. She’s glitzy, undone, enraged, and lonely. It’s a fantastic, conflict-filled start: America, Russia, lady, man, youth, experience, druggy hedonism, and rigorous professionalism.
Unfortunately, it’s a beginning flash-forward, the year’s most popular story of TV Shows on Gomovies concept. The backstep of Queen’s Gambit is deserved. The first episode centers on a younger Beth (Isla Johnston), who is traumatized after her mother dies in a perhaps suicidal car accident. She comes in a Catholic orphanage in the 1950s. Those three words conjure up images of horror scenarios, but the misuse here is entirely chemical. Orderlies provide state-mandated tranquilizers to the children. Beth is high on Orphan’s Little Helper while she learns to play chess. Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), the solemn janitor downstairs, plays single bouts on his ragged board. He begins teaching Beth the fundamentals and realizes he’s discovered a queen.
Every episode advances Beth’s chess career, coming-of-age, and addiction slide one step farther. Though the original material is a novel by Walter Tevis, the biopic follows a predictable path. Taylor-Joy is at her best as Beth, a young girl who exudes a Vulcan-like awkward confidence. She shows how the chessboard can be both an escape and a religion for a confused young person, providing “an entire world of just 64 squares” to someone whose inner existence is full of murky confusion.
Beth is adopted by the Wheatleys, a husband and wife whose elaborately patterned home resembles a 1950s American mausoleum. Dad Allston (Patrick Kennedy) is preoccupied with something else. Alma (Marielle Heller), his wife, mourns an unfathomable loss by drinking in broad daylight and watching endless television. She comes to life when she discovers her adopted daughter has a lucrative chess habit. Heller gives an outstanding portrayal, a world-weary counterpart to Taylor-nervous Joy’s curiosity. Alma becomes a helpful boss, but her enthusiasm is a little too vicarious. She’s a nice mother, and she’s made a teenager her drinking friend.
The Art of Chess Playing
Isn’t true that everybody knows how to play chess? Isn’t it true that we’ve all seen The Wire? Frank has a lot of fun staging Beth’s duels as a director. Split-screens, fourth-wall staring competitions, and time-lapse montages of moving components are all available. Taylor-hands Joy’s move so quickly that I had to keep rewinding to see if the movie was sped up. (I believe it’s just a case of zeal.) Beth’s strategy evolution from blitzkrieg attack to patient side defense was wonkishly specific, which I appreciated. Frank appears to be unclear how much technique the audience would accept, and he makes several big sports-movie leaps as a result. A spiritual dual, sophisticated flirting, and/or a secret confrontation with flashback pain are always the crucial games.
What’s more, the miniseries at 123Movies TV shows does a greater job of bringing the entire chess community to life. It’s a culture of intellectual arrogance, cautious competition, and geek adoration. Beth begins her acting career as well-dressed young oddballs in cafeterias, where everyone is envious of a Kentucky champion named Harry Beltik (Harry Melling). She meets national rival Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), a beatnik cowboy with an ornate knife, as she rises up the ranks. Brodie-Sangster enjoys being the coolest kid in nerd club, flaunting his own Sports Illustrated cover story and wishing for the Soviet Union’s enlightened chess culture. In Las Vegas and Mexico City, there are lavishly art-directed venues, and Beth’s interactions with her other players take a few diagonal soap opera turns.