The latest batch of Netflix’s original movies have mostly failed to impress. Efforts like Spiderhead and The Man from Toronto may have climbed into the streamer’s top 10, but they've endured a critical mauling and seemingly left little impression on subscribers.
The same could end up being true of the latest Netflix film to rocket into the streamer’s most-watched movie list, Beauty. Released last week (Wednesday, June 29) this drama comes from director Andrew Dosunmu and stars Gracie Marie Bradley in the titular role. And while plenty of people are watching it — it currently sits in the no.4 spot on Netflix U.S. — the critical reaction is quite poor.
What is Beauty about?
Beauty stars Gracie Marie Bradly in the eponymous role of a young woman with a stunning singing voice. After being offered a lucrative recording contract, she struggles to maintain her voice and identity, as the pressures of being a professional singer take their toll.
As her career begins to take off, a fierce battle rages between her highly religious parents, well-meaning girlfriend, demanding record label executives and sinister outside influences. All these parties want to guide Beauty on her journey, but the road to stardom can be destructive.
While it’s not a biopic, the film is reportedly inspired by the early career of American singer Whitney Houston. Alongside Gracie Marie Bradly in the lead role, Beauty also stars Niecy Nash, Aleyse Shannon, Giancarlo Esposito, Kyle Bary, Micheal Ward and Sharon Stone.
What do the critics say about Beauty?
It’s fair to say that critics haven’t been especially kind to Beauty: the Netflix movie currently scores an abysmal 20% on reviews aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Granted, this could improve as more publications give their verdict, but nevertheless, it seems unlikely that Netflix will be boasting about the film’s critical reception any time soon.
Noel Murray of The Los Angeles Times claimed the film “lacks dimension,” writing that “this semi-true story is ultimately too sketchy to have anything effective to say about Houston, mainstream success or being in the closet.”
Time Magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek was equally disappointed by Beauty, noting that the film “ends before it has really dug into anything of consequence.” Zacharek was also critical of Beauty’s role in the film: “Its heroine, whom we know is headed for trouble, is left stranded in the middle of her own story.”
Not all reviews have been negative — just most of them. Lisa Kennedy of The New York Times, for instance, was more complimentary, declaring Beauty “an elegy with an edge, one that touches on faith and financials, love and condemnation." With that in mind, you might want to at least give the film a chance; it is only 90 minutes long, after all.
Analysis: Another Netflix disappointment
While Netflix has added some worthwhile classic films to its library in recent weeks, the world's biggest streaming service is struggling right now when it comes to original movies. Beauty is just the latest disappointment in an increasingly growing list of underwhelming flicks.
Its ranking in the top 10 does suggest that it’s grabbing the attention of subscribers out of the gate. But with such a poor critical reception it’s unlikely that Beauty will hold onto its spot for too long. Expect it to quickly fade into the depth of Netflix’s content vacuum, destined to only resurface if the algorithm randomly recommends it to future subscribers.
While Netflix isn’t exactly hitting it out of the park in terms of new films, there are still plenty of great movies to stream this week on competing services including Hulu and Prime Video. Plus, Netflix is due another batch of original movies later this week, so perhaps one of these can earn the streamer some slightly kinder reviews.