The Queen's Gambit

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mfunk9786
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The Queen's Gambit

#1 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:48 pm

Gordon wrote:
Sat Jun 11, 2005 3:03 pm
The late Walter Tevis was a great novelist and Creative Mind. This is the guy who wrote The Hustler, remember. However, his greatest achievement is probably his extraordinary 1983 novel, The Queen's Gambit, about an abused, orphaned, child prodigy, the tremendously inspiring, Beth Harmon. The alienation of the Genius Mind, was also the main theme in The Man Who Fell to Earth, and like Newton, Beth is 'brought down' to our level by alcohol. Tevis, himself was an alcholic intellectual who struggled for many years, existentially with the World. He was a great storyteller, who never achieved Grand Status as an American writer. But, then, few modern American writers have, but there are many amazing Minds out there.
Hey, if you're one of the people who has given themselves over to auteur miniseries before and intend to again, look no further than The Queen's Gambit, which I was enjoying the first couple of episodes of last night as I watched it but find myself unable to stop thinking about today and looking forward to, in a home that contains two brand new gaming consoles, parking myself in front of the TV to watch more tonight.

There are some contrivances that [finally getting his victory lap after years as a top notch screenwriter] Scott Frank includes here in almost a Burton or Anderson-esque flourish (like the blue-green pep pills that hilariously keep popping up everywhere), but when you bring Uli Hanisch on board as your production designer, you don't do it so you can turn the dials down and make something with a lot of visual restraint. The story is one that needed this miniseries format to be told properly and is, to give you a better go-to idea, done on a nearly Knick level of quality and filmmaking imagination. Rarely do you feel like you're getting too much chess, or too much exposition, or too many flashbacks - the balance Frank has struck with this long of a runtime, thusfar anyway, is laudable. Seems like it's baffling some Metacritic-filler grade TV critics who are usually spending their time posting Emily in Paris GIFs, but you should consider that a good sign, not a bad one.

I hope that Gordon, while not active on this forum for some time now, is still in a position where he can watch and enjoy this one since he was lusting after it some (15!) years ago, when Anya Taylor-Joy was the age of the young orphan at the center of this story IRL. Kismet!

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#2 Post by Persona » Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:36 pm

3 episodes in and the wife and I are both really liking it, which by itself is a real accomplishment on the show's part.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#3 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Nov 17, 2020 7:55 pm

The Wife

The Show

...
The Prestige

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#4 Post by denti alligator » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:12 pm

I liked it quite a bit, however nothing quite reaches the heights of that first episode, which is pretty remarkable (the girl who plays young Beth is amazing).

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#5 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Nov 19, 2020 1:40 am

I tried my best to binge this as a long movie, because like many limited series these days, that's absolutely how it's intended to be consumed. The Queen's Gambit is about what it’s like to grow up scared and alone, to discover oneself through solitary and communal experiences, to go through life with immense passion and continual adjustments to pain.

Beth begins naive about addiction, retreating into herself like an addict who uses alone to escape the hardships of the outside world. The game of chess- strategizing and living in one's mind- is safe. Being good at something is a reason to get up in the morning. Right from the beginning the story is told through the subjective lens of Beth in a very novel way. Frank’s interest is on small movements and specific angles rather than big events. He details all the perceptions of a wide-eyed child sizing up her surroundings with equal parts fear and wonder. We see the teacher from the exact space where Beth sits, heads blocking our vision, firmly aligning with the restrictiveness and opportunistic framework of her position. Angles are low when she's afraid and spectacularly open up when she's inspired.

The fine line between a passion and an addiction is invisibly planted, validating the desire and flat-out need to strive for feeling good- whether about ourselves emotionally or for ourselves physiologically - and when we can’t get that feeling from others we need to take matters into our own hands. At the same time, I appreciate how Frank refrains from stamping a reductive prognosis of the addiction component, at least for a while. It’s simply an enigmatic force, with clear risk factors gesturing at reasons for self-medication but also an entirely unknowable force too, that prompts Beth to make objectively illogical choices without a meditation on the ‘why’. It’s as humble a direction to take on the subject as any, and layers the rush of the chase toward chess to both mask and mimic that addict part under the iceberg of her psyche. As mentioned, the visualizations help contribute these coatings, where even the carpeted walls and floors of a hotel room resemble the two-shaded green pills. It's as if the entire film is a symphony of the significant elements in Beth's life morphing into one another like a waking dream, as she tries, avoids, fails, and succeeds to get a grasp on her presenting problems and overall character.

For over a decade I’ve worked with children around young-Beth's age who have been removed from their families, orphans of the state with trauma histories and mental health issues. I've found games, and specifically the game of chess, to be a dependable gateway into building rapport, and surprisingly many of the kids I work with take to it with gusto. I don’t know why they love chess- perhaps a feeling of empowerment and validation of their worth, doing for themselves what few others have given to them. The game is also a reinforcement of their often hypervigilant perceptiveness, playing to those strengths: scanning the board, problem-solving internally, besting another human being in a safe space involving clear rules- dependable constructs to protect them from the external traumatizing world. At a certain point Beth is conditioned to ‘do it alone’ too- she rejects the caring gesture from a female peer who offers a tampon in practice by tossing it, but publicly accepts the support; the distrust in others is subtly woven into the fabric of her existential comfort.

However, I also found solace in chess as a kid. I was shy, had debilitating social anxiety, undiagnosed mental health issues similar to my family members, but I grew up in a caring, supportive home without many of the glaring commonalities Beth and my clients share. But of course that internal, mystifying space matters just as much, and while the children I’ve worked with may share more of a trauma history with her, not all of them will grow up to cope in the same ways Beth and some of us have, to ease that discomfort or fill that hole or whatever it may be with a solution that bears a curiously unstoppable magnetic hold.

This is, above all else, a great character study. Despite the subjective visuals, Frank's approach occupies a space wavering in between the objective and subjective. Beth's emotions are felt, but her psychology is mostly left impenetrable, as it should be. Frank's intent is not a primarily diagnostic exercise but a humanistic one, showing a distinct person who has her set of strengths, commendable resilience, and challenges, deficits, and blind spots too. There is a great scene in the third episode where Beth flirts with a man over a chess board, her introverted source of comfort and confidence bridged out into the world of social discomfort, novelty and naivete. The chess game transforms from an aloof, concrete set of rules into a sexy vernacular of nebulous intimacy, shattering that sense of self-actualization with a reminder that there's more to learn and experience; there always is. We watch her lose, win, be willing to learn, remain stubborn in her ways, act coldly without social skills at certain times, and react warmly with compassion at others. We watch men want her and her want men, dismissing desires and giving in to them, engage in solely selfish modes of self-preservation and genuine surrenders of the self toward a state of empathy.

That is, until the last act, which ultimately ruined my impression of this film in only a brief series of scenes.
SpoilerShow
Beginning in episode 6 and transitioning into episode 7, Beth's addiction bubbles up to the surface in a contrived climax where she can’t hide from herself anymore, and three friends show up to give overstated and unfairly thin pathologies in their Lifetime-pleading interventions. It's not only a polished fabrication of the addiction component, especially that scene where her old friend basically tells her to just change (as if she's choosing, or has ever chosen, to be an addict, culminating in a consoling cry, "oh did you bite off more than you can chew?" come on) but also a violation of the strategically composed tone and respectful ethos to character the film has put forth for us.

Even following this, Beth's turn to sobriety mirrors her newfound humility, happiness, social harmony, and self-actualization, all with total ease. It's honestly ridiculous, and offensive to our journey with this developing character, to watch ingrained experiences just disappear with the wave of a magic wand; and incredibly disrespectful to mental health by supporting the notion that, with a little nudge, we can pull ourselves up by our emotional bootstraps and conquer our addictions, mental illnesses, traumas, and.. general conditioning conclusively. The way she just turns away a drink and smiles near the end makes me want to turn off the movie, but nothing can beat all the people who expressed concern being in the same room and calling her in Russia to save the day with teamwork.
However, for the bulk of the film, Beth is left as a strong character comprised of many parts. For the first five episodes, Beth is not defined as an addict. She is not defined as a chess player. She is not defined as a feminist's icon trying to be the best 'person' in a 'man's' world; wholly egocentric, or tenderhearted "deep down"- whatever that absolute idea means. Beth is all of those things and more, her identity as transparent and opaque as any of our's would be if another spent time with us for seven hours in a time capsule. Just because we are all ambiguously defined along the many spectrums of existence, doesn't mean we're not unique. The title of this film, the Queen's Gambit, is a power move that asserts one's presence out into the field of play. Beth is a walking contradiction of a person, like many of us; someone who needs to assert her dignity and worth by facing the world, and also needs to hide away from all the overwhelming stimuli. There's a saying for recovering addicts, "an egomaniac with an inferiority complex" - that may not describe Beth, but some iteration of it prods at her vast complexities, with permission for being who she is through solicitude.

Despite some poorly-engineered missteps near the end that threaten to undo the film's admirable qualities, the majority of it works exceptionally well. Unfortunately I can't judge this off of 5.5 out of 7 episodes, for if I could I'd call it one of the better films this year. As it stands, Frank tailspins and makes all the choices one must avoid if they don't want to insult their audience, not to mention the condition of addiction, in the last two eps- and even giving the film all the rope in that area, the character study deflates all energy and interest from the narrative, and then continues to double down on its eye-rolling machinations to pretty unforgivable degrees. It's a real shame.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#6 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:35 pm

I agree that the moment she goes to join an old friend for a drink in Paris, the narrative begins to flatten out in a way that feels underbaked. But the scenes in Moscow, however naïvely conceived, are lovely and redeemed my affection for what is so wonderful about the series in the first place. Sounds like it impacted your overall experience more than mine, TWBB, but you aren't imagining the fact that it could have a better narrative approach to representing the empty feelings that come with recovery. It is not merely as simple as an addiction feeling lonely and wrong and recovery feeling loving and right.

Still one of my top films of this year. Taylor-Joy is incredible.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#7 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Nov 20, 2020 2:52 am

The ending was good, my problem is that it didn't feel earned. I understand that showing the process of navigating problems to self-actualization is challenging for filmmakers, but the shortcut used here was so glaring that it directly offended the complexities established by the film's rhythms, even aside from my issues with specificities. You can't dilute an intricate character into a two-dimensional doll with polarized-to-the-point-of-being-absolutist zen emotions and pretend that it's fair play. That's like changing the rules of chess near the end of the game so it's easier to win.

Taylor-Joy needs to be great in order for it to work and she is stellar. Don't get me wrong, I liked the last scene a lot, I just wish they spent an extra hour granting us the space to justify the developments, and then maybe pare back a bit on the heavy-handed extremisms. She shouldn't feel like an entirely new character to whoever just came back into the room from a bathroom break.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#8 Post by Persona » Sat Nov 21, 2020 10:41 am

We finished it last night.

I agree with a lot of twbblus criticisms (and found episode 6 to be very much the worst case of tired trope overload) but I don't think the overall impact was as negative for me and my wife's overall appreciation of the series because the last episode was just too dang enjoyable. And the production design, damn.

The other big thing for me was that Methuen basement scene really hit. Like, I know life doesn't usually work like that, but I found myself moved and believing that it would have a huge impact on Harmon. After that the finish is much more preoccupied with sports movie finale stuff so the proper follow-through isn't really there in terms of the character development or psychology but I gave it a pass because I understood why the focus was elsewhere and, again, just enjoyed the watch.

Maybe could have used another episode as a denouement? Or minimized episode 6 to make room for that. I dunno, though, extended denouement has kind of become a thing with a lot of dramas these days so I kind of liked how this ended right after its climax. Punchy if not exactly ripe with depth.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#9 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Nov 21, 2020 1:17 pm

Persona wrote:
Sat Nov 21, 2020 10:41 am
After that the finish is much more preoccupied with sports movie finale stuff so the proper follow-through isn't really there in terms of the character development or psychology but I gave it a pass because I understood why the focus was elsewhere and, again, just enjoyed the watch.

Maybe could have used another episode as a denouement? Or minimized episode 6 to make room for that. I dunno, though, extended denouement has kind of become a thing with a lot of dramas these days so I kind of liked how this ended right after its climax. Punchy if not exactly ripe with depth.
Yeah I definitely "get" why the final episode took the very classic 'sports movie finale' trajectory, but it felt like two very different films spliced together by an offensive and brief connective frame Tyler Durden might use, via those addiction-confrontation scenes, which is to say that I felt an uncomfortably violating shift after the five-hour ambiguous character study I was watching was suddenly assigned a prognosis with the blink of an eye.

I agree with you about no denouement though- the final shot was a perfect way to end the story, and this is why I was even more frustrated, because that change of perspective could have been earned. We've grown to love this character and want her to loosen up that introverted self-destructive tendency to suppress support, and instead to take on a more spiritual attitude toward life and the social world around her. But I didn't see that character in the last hour, I saw a different one from the future because I couldn't buy the timeline or process depicted for such a gear-alteration. Rather than a denouement, I'd have liked just more time in between her 'bottom' and the final match. They didn't have to show this development either -that is a challenge few films, even long ones, can pull off (which is why something like The Young Pope should be the blueprint for greatest character studies ever)- but even bottoming out and then a "one year later" time-shift would have been more appropriate and commendable for not trying to show, and would remain in step with the narrative's mature avenue of underexplanation.

I'm often wary of posts like mine that ask for a different film than what was given, but in this case it felt very much like the intentions were bifurcated and the result of the service-delivery was not as advertised.
Persona wrote:
Sat Nov 21, 2020 10:41 am
The other big thing for me was that Methuen basement scene really hit. Like, I know life doesn't usually work like that, but I found myself moved and believing that it would have a huge impact on Harmon.
This was a wonderful scene, and is a great example of this kind of 'acute-moment character development' done right, showing how she could achieve growth in real time, finding a bridge between her own inner drives and the social world, as initiated by that scene in Townes' hotel room with the sexual tension.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#10 Post by Toland's Mitchell » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:27 pm

I finished The Queen's Gambit last night. A few thoughts:

- As a casual chess player and fan of the game (I was bummed when the 2020 Candidates Tournament was halted by Covid-19), I much appreciated the overall accurate representation of the game. For example, the show mentioned some of the game's great players of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Morphy and Capablanca. They even compared Beth Harmon to Paul Morphy, which was not apples-to-apples but that's a conversation for another forum. Anyway, the way the characters spoke about theories, openings and positions, they way the camera showed them on screen, I totally related to it. However, one aspect of chess the show missed was how professional matches are played in series. If someone watched this show with no knowledge of the game at the professional level, that someone may think chess matches are one-game and single-elimination, which is plainly untrue. Matches in the real world are played in series of games where players switch between white and black. This didn't bother me too much for most of the show, as her matches with Harry and Benny served merely as rising action building towards the climactic Borgov match in Episode 7. I just shrugged it off until then. However, for the finale against Borgov, I wish they had played a realistic series.
SpoilerShow
Instead, the show took the 'classic sports movie finale,' presenting the Moscow Invitational akin to a March Madness Tournament, where Beth simply defeats her opponents once and once only. It didn't feel earned on chess terms, in addition to how it didn't feel earned from a character perspective either as discussed earlier in this thread which I'll get to below.
- I was indifferent to the ending due to the sudden character shift that occurred early in episode 7. There should have more recovery process shown, as opposed to
SpoilerShow
an old friend showed up and gave Beth advice on life, and informed her the man who introduced her to chess died. Suddenly Beth stopped abusing drugs and alcohol, regained her best chess potential, and went on to defeat her biggest rival. The End. As TWBB mentioned, it isn't that simple. Furthermore, the show and its central character acknowledged her aptitude for chess and drug abuse were intertwined. So how did she give up the pills but improve her chess game at the same time, with such relative ease? For one, she briefly eavesdropped on the Russians discussing her game with the long-bearded man (which may qualify as cheating). The show then proposed she learned to finally trust her friends, as Benny, Harry, Benny's chess friends consulted with her over the phone over the Borgov match. In both cases, she learned the value of teamwork in chess, which works on narrative grounds, but still neglects to address Beth's change on a personal/mental level.
- The music was one of the show's strengths and weaknesses. In Episodes 1 and 2, the soundtrack relied on an classical-sounding piano score I found completely overused and melodramatic. It was used during nearly every trivial time and place such as car scenes, school scenes, orphanage scenes, etc. To me, the music was sucking energy out of the show, which I was otherwise very fond of for its character study and representation of a game/culture I'm a fan of. Then in Episodes 3-6, the music became less melodramatic piano score and more contemporary 60s hits. These songs fit very well. They sounded good and they were nicely juxtaposed to Beth's character and plot points of the show. But then in Episode 7, the 60s songs were scrapped, replaced by an uplifting classical score to go along with the 'classic sports finale' which I was indifferent towards.

- Benny was a great side character, representing a social outlet Beth welcomed at times, pushed away at others. He also had elite chess talent of his own and some humorous one-liners.

- Since the show was through Beth's perspective, the scene where Harry talks to himself in front a mirror felt out of place and unnecessary, minor issue though.

- Overall I liked the show, but didn't love it.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#11 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:00 pm

Toland's Mitchell wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:27 pm
SpoilerShow
Suddenly Beth stopped abusing drugs and alcohol, regained her best chess potential, and went on to defeat her biggest rival. The End. As TWBB mentioned, it isn't that simple. Furthermore, the show and its central character acknowledged her aptitude for chess and drug abuse were intertwined. So how did she give up the pills but improve her chess game at the same time, with such relative ease? For one, she briefly eavesdropped on the Russians discussing her game with the long-bearded man (which may qualify as cheating). The show then proposed she learned to finally trust her friends, as Benny, Harry, Benny's chess friends consulted with her over the phone over the Borgov match. In both cases, she learned the value of teamwork in chess, which works on narrative grounds, but still neglects to address Beth's change on a personal/mental level.
Great point, Toland's Mitchell
SpoilerShow
While it's not unreasonable to assume that the death of her mentor could trigger a 'moment of clarity' to assess her life and contribute to the push to get sober, your point that her "aptitude for chess and drug abuse were intertwined" really gets at why this depiction is actually harmful. It's ridiculous to assume that putting down the substances will remove the problem, because as nearly all addicts will tell you, alcohol/drugs become reframed, once sober, as the solutions to the problems, which are "personal/mental"(and more). It's uncharitable to the character as we know her, by removing half of her introverted framework for escaping those issues and assuming that she can adapt to reconditioning herself in the span of a day, but it's also a backwards-view of addiction as the problem itself when, once removed without a program of continuous recovery, life will be just fine. If when people got sober their friends came running back, their worlds suddenly orbiting around you, that would undo the entire message of self-help programs that talk about how the world doesn't revolve around you, and living life on life's terms means that you don't necessarily get or deserve a totally fresh start. That's just not how life works, addict or not. You don't just change one thing and achieve sublime forgiveness from all, not to mention magnetic attention disregarding your challenging characteristics and latching onto you as a caricature of positivity. And man, if all people needed to do was put down drugs and alcohol to feel good, they wouldn't relapse. The whole point is that life sucks when you take away the only strategy one has to manage, and you need to go through a lot of compromise and acceptance to feel like even a fraction of a winner in one small area of life again. This transformation could not be less earned, and I'm starting to think it's actually more problematic and offensive than Hillbilly Elegy's answer to addiction.
Regarding the realism of chess tournaments, I totally believe you but was this also true during the era depicted? I'm not very well-versed in chess history.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#12 Post by Toland's Mitchell » Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:36 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:00 pm
Regarding the realism of chess tournaments, I totally believe you but was this also true during the era depicted? I'm not very well-versed in chess history.
Some larger tournaments with dozens of players would do a single-elimination format to quickly narrow down the playing field, but smaller tournaments and championship matches, such as the fictional Moscow Invitational in the show, would almost certainly be played a series. There was one intriguing line of dialogue in Episode 3 (I may be off by one episode) where somebody talked about the future of chess in the computer age. He said something along the lines of "when computers play chess, the white pieces will always win because white has the advantage in the game of playing first." It is true in chess that the white pieces do have a very slight advantage. Among common players, this advantage is negligible as the better player can win no matter what color he/she plays as. However, at the elite grandmaster level, this difference factors in. Among the best players in the world, the player with the black pieces is usually fighting for a drawn game, which is why they play series and take turns playing as white and black. In the final Beth Harmon vs Borgov match, I couldn't help but notice Beth played with the white pieces...she had an advantage over him from the start. In a realistic match, they would have played another game afterward where Borgov played the white pieces and Beth played black. And they would have gone back and forth for days. Here's the Wikipedia page for the 1969 World Chess Championship:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Che ... nship_1969
It was a best-of-24 match, and even the playoff matches were at least best-of-8. Of course, Queen's Gambit is TV and they don't have time to show us Beth and Borgov playing game after game. A condensed match also makes it more thrilling for the TV audience, but I do believe the creators could have achieved the same amount of excitement by adding just one more game between them where they switched colors. It would have been a more accurate representation of the game without adding too much more run time. But this is me being nit-picky. Again the show's overall presentation of the game was mostly accurate, but that was one important aspect the creators dismissed. It's not nearly as problematic as the show's mishandling of Beth's character transformation in the final episode...
therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:00 pm
Toland's Mitchell wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:27 pm
SpoilerShow
Suddenly Beth stopped abusing drugs and alcohol, regained her best chess potential, and went on to defeat her biggest rival. The End. As TWBB mentioned, it isn't that simple. Furthermore, the show and its central character acknowledged her aptitude for chess and drug abuse were intertwined. So how did she give up the pills but improve her chess game at the same time, with such relative ease? For one, she briefly eavesdropped on the Russians discussing her game with the long-bearded man (which may qualify as cheating). The show then proposed she learned to finally trust her friends, as Benny, Harry, Benny's chess friends consulted with her over the phone over the Borgov match. In both cases, she learned the value of teamwork in chess, which works on narrative grounds, but still neglects to address Beth's change on a personal/mental level.
Great point, Toland's Mitchell
SpoilerShow
While it's not unreasonable to assume that the death of her mentor could trigger a 'moment of clarity' to assess her life and contribute to the push to get sober, your point that her "aptitude for chess and drug abuse were intertwined" really gets at why this depiction is actually harmful. It's ridiculous to assume that putting down the substances will remove the problem, because as nearly all addicts will tell you, alcohol/drugs become reframed, once sober, as the solutions to the problems, which are "personal/mental"(and more). It's uncharitable to the character as we know her, by removing half of her introverted framework for escaping those issues and assuming that she can adapt to reconditioning herself in the span of a day, but it's also a backwards-view of addiction as the problem itself when, once removed without a program of continuous recovery, life will be just fine. If when people got sober their friends came running back, their worlds suddenly orbiting around you, that would undo the entire message of self-help programs that talk about how the world doesn't revolve around you, and living life on life's terms means that you don't necessarily get or deserve a totally fresh start. That's just not how life works, addict or not. You don't just change one thing and achieve sublime forgiveness from all, not to mention magnetic attention disregarding your challenging characteristics and latching onto you as a caricature of positivity. And man, if all people needed to do was put down drugs and alcohol to feel good, they wouldn't relapse. The whole point is that life sucks when you take away the only strategy one has to manage, and you need to go through a lot of compromise and acceptance to feel like even a fraction of a winner in one small area of life again. This transformation could not be less earned, and I'm starting to think it's actually more problematic and offensive than Hillbilly Elegy's answer to addiction.
SpoilerShow
I haven't seen Hillbilly Elegy yet so cannot compare them as of now. Anyway, I would add that the reason her friends came back to her after she was sober was because they really wanted her to beat Borgov, just as every American rooted for their player/team in all sports/games against the USSR back in those days. Thus Benny's and Harry's aid to her at the end was motivated mostly by friendship, but perhaps a little patriotism as well. Nevertheless, their worlds' suddenly orbited around hers because she was naturally gifted with a talent they wanted but didn't have. Benny wanted to be in her place taking on Borgov, but he wasn't good enough so the least he could do was try to help a friend achieve what he couldn't. Again, I think it worked for the story, but it was still a disservice to depicting what overcoming addiction is actually like, as TWBB illustrated above. It's a shame because there was great potential there that went unexplored. And it's not as if the script shied away from throwing heavy obstacles in Beth's path (when orphanage prohibited her from playing, dealing with the death of her adoptive mother, taking on the house, etc), only to show her struggle and overcome them. But for whatever reason, the biggest obstacle of all was the one the creators unfairly glossed over.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#13 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:58 am

In fairness to Frank and co. I think it's a challenging progression to show, and I don't blame them for choosing not to deviate into what would be another who-knows-how-many eps to do right, but showing a moment of desperation and then a Two Years Later title card would've been a perfectly fine way to broadly indicating that she's worked hard offscreen to get her life back bit by bit. Instead this smooth transition happens and it just spoils the character they worked so hard to make complex, as well as invalidating everyone who's ever gotten sober and had a hard time adjusting, which.. I don't want to say is everyone, but..

I don't know, I find it so disingenuous to develop a fleshed-out human being and then transform her into an alien at the last second, and I have a low threshold for this kind of audience-jerking even outside of the specific content.

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Re: The Queen's Gambit

#14 Post by zedz » Tue Dec 22, 2020 4:52 pm

I enjoyed the series, but agree with most of the criticisms raised in the thread.

The final episode disappointed because it basically seemed like a cavalcade of all the feelgood beats the writer could think of, with no regard for plausibility or the prior complexity of the characters:
SpoilerShow
- Every significant character from Beth's past returns. The nice ones have done well for themselves and contribute to her victory. The not-nice ones have been punished by karma.
- Beth discovers, in a magic kind of way, that her first chess mentor was immensely proud of her. She gets to pay him back posthumously.
- The cure for mental health issues and crippling substance abuse problems turns out to be enough people saying "pull yourself together!"
- The venerable grandmaster confirms to Beth and the audience that she's the Best Chess Player Ever.
- Prince Charming wasn't really gay after all.
- Beth discovers that she still has her magic power (ceiling chess) even without the magic potion. . . (The Wizard of Oz moment)
- . . . which allows her to win the crucial match all on her own despite having all that help. (The Cake and Eat It moment)
- Surly supervillain Bogrov turns out to have a heart of gold when defeated.
- In the middle of the Cold War, Beth takes off on her way to Moscow Airport to go and play chess with twinkly-eyed coots in a park, and the Secret Service guy just lets her do this?
It was so relentlessly upbeat that I wouldn't have been at all surprised if the very final shot of the series had been:
SpoilerShow
a cut back to Beth lying on the floor of her living room after knocking herself out on the coffee table while plastered in the previous episode
Last edited by zedz on Tue Dec 22, 2020 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Queen's Gambit

#15 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Dec 22, 2020 4:57 pm

zedz wrote:
Tue Dec 22, 2020 4:52 pm
It was so relentlessly upbeat that I wouldn't have been at all surprised if the very final shot of the series had been:
SpoilerShow
a cut back to Beth lying on the floor of her living room after knocking herself out on the coffee table while plastered in the previous episode
Now that would have been a great ending!

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: The Queen's Gambit

#16 Post by zedz » Tue Dec 22, 2020 5:14 pm

Oh, and the music choices are often way, way off, historically, which makes me wonder about the accuracy of much of the series' other details.
SpoilerShow
Two examples that leapt out:
Beth and Benny singing along to a song on the radio that had never been released as a single and had only appeared on a mildly successful album several years earlier, by a band that was at that time banned from America. It's incredibly unlikely that the song would be played on the radio in the first place, and even less likely that both of them would know it. 'Stop your Sobbing' is practically a standard now, but it only became well known after the Pretenders covered it in 1979.

Even more egregious is linking Beth's drunken freakout and eye make-up debacle to a TV appearance of Shocking Blue performing 'Venus', which wasn't recorded until 1969, after the series ends, and didn't become a US hit until 1970.

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