MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 29, 2020: KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL

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motw logo 1-35Part Behind the Music episode, part intimate video diary, and part indictment of the way the music industry treats women, director Amy Goldstein’s Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is a frank, endearing documentary about what it means to “make it.” It was filmed over the course of four and a half years, following rocker/actress Kate Nash as she figures out what comes after her big break — and the slump that followed it.

In her late teens, Nash abruptly became very famous — especially in her native England — thanks to her hit 2007 single Foundations. She actively promoted music as a means of empowering women and girls and garnered a loyal fanbase. Two successful records and some awards followed, but by the time she’d parted ways with her label and released her third album in 2013, her star had faded. Now what? A move to L.A. in 2014 is intended to re-engergize her career, but financial trouble (and a shady manager) keep a new round of success out of reach.

Anyone who’s seen Netflix’s show GLOW will know that Nash eventually finds the opportunity she’s longed for — and it’s good that her story has a (so far) happy ending. Because if she didn’t make it out of the valley that followed her early peak, the film might have had a very different tone. As it is, we can boo and cheer along with her as she struggles through lows (selling her clothes for cash) and eventually hits new heights (scoring the plum part of Rhonda/Brittanica on GLOW).

Underlying everything is Nash’s dedication to empowering other women to embrace their rock and roll selves — and her own passion for writing and performing meaningful, message-driven songs. That’s one of the reasons it’s so maddening to watch her struggle so hard: It’s clear that her life as a performer hasn’t been an easy one, and it’s even clearer that a large part of that is because she’s a woman. Kudos to Goldstein for telling such a personal story in a way that has broad appeal. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Nell Minow: Kate Nash wants, above all, to tell her truth in her own voice, and so director Amy Goldstein wisely lets her tell her own story in Underestimate the Girl. Almost all of the description of what is happening comes from Nash herself as we see her struggle to find a way to maintain control over her music and her career. She says that what she likes is to “do weird stuff and freak people out.” But what we learn is that what that means is being honest about her feelings and experiences in a way that may seem weird only to those who expect young women to conform to what music industry executives consider marketable.

Leslie Combemale Amy Goldstein’s film illustrates why both women and men underestimate, or neglect women who create independently in both film and music. We expect women to scream, artistically or sometimes even literally, in order to be noticed. We expect them to be lauded by the powers that be. Or, we expect them to self-destruct. But, Kate Nash is a performer and creator who finds a way to speak her truth, loudly and creatively, as a woman, and on her own terms. Read full review.

MaryAnn Johanson This is a terrific portrait of a remarkable young woman, an artistic pioneer of the Internet age, a woman of incredible integrity struggling with sexism and social-media pile-ons on top of the doubts and stresses that all creative people have to overcome. I’m embarrassed to say that I’d never heard of Kate Nash except in passing before, but she’s my new hero.

Jennifer Merin Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is filmmaker Amy Goldstein’s intimate, stylish and entertaining biodoc about the fiercely feminist and independent recording artist turned actress who insists on telling her truths through her art. Kate is charismatic, her story is remarkable and the documentary is compelling. Don’t underestimate Kate or this engaging film.

Loren King Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is director Amy Goldstein’s engrossing, entertaining gut punch of a behind-the-music documentary. Singer/songwriter Nash is the creative young woman at the center who struggles mightily against misogyny and exploration at every turn. For those not familiar with the British Nash, she became a pop star with a huge fan base of mostly young women after her 2007 smash hit Foundations. Read full review.

Marina Antunes I’ve seen Glow. I knew Kate Nash could act. What I didn’t know that she’s also a musician – yes, it’s still possible to be surprised by something in the advent of the internet. Amy Goldstein’s Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl captures Nash’s rise to stardom, fall, and resurgence and while many artists’ careers follow this trajectory, Nash’s passion for creating music and supporting women in the industry is infectious and worth celebrating.

Susan Wloszczyna: As musical biopics go, Amy Goldstein’s Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is what would happen if American Idol’s backstories of its aspiring singing contestants had less heart-tugging sob content and more honesty about how becoming a chart-topping star is not quite what it is cracked up to be these days. That is especially true for females in the industry, no matter how fiercely feminist they are. Nash’s struggles to continue to be an artist are very real. Read full review.

Liz Whittemore I’ve been a fan of Kate Nash since her debut album. Her writing was unique, her voice hypnotic, her lyrics pierced my soul. I had no idea how she went from London popstar to one of the stars of Netflix’s GLOW. Underestimate The Girl is a raw and powerful anthem to girl power. It illustrates the ups and extreme downs of her career. You’ll peek behind the curtain of the misogyny of the music industry. With intimate iPhone and camcorder confessions over the past few years, Kate gets to tell her story her way. All the music in the film is hers, and rightfully so. If you didn’t know who she was before, well it’s impossible to ignore her now. She’s a multitalented artist that’s rebounded in life and creativity. Underestimate The Girl is the perfect title choice because you never want to do that to Kate. It would be to your detriment.

Cate Marquis Amy Goldstein’s appealing documentary Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is about British singer/songwriter Kate Nash but you do not need to be a fan, or even know her music, to be charmed by this intimate doc about a young woman dancing to her own beat. As a teen, Kate Nash shot to fame almost overnight, going from social media to filling big music venues after being signed by a major recording label. But when she begins to explore new feminist musical directions and forms an all-girl band, the record label is unhappy. Determined to follow their own path, the documentary follows Kate and her band on their up and down career journey. But the film offers more than expected. Although charismatic Kate is pretty and has a taste for wild costumes, she’s also an appealing mix of hardworking, down-to-earth, working class Londoner and young dreamer with hopes like any other person, looking to find success while being true to herself. The combination is magical, and you can’t help but cheer her on, whether you like her music or not.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl

Director: Amy Goldstein

Release Date: May 22, 2020 (online)

Running Time: 89 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriter: Documentary

Distribution Company: Alamo On Demand

Trailer

Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).