Alex (Adèle Exarchopoulos) stumbles into her rented villa after a night that could only be described as epic, complete with roller skates and the company of two charming men. She finds solace next to her best friend, Carole (Mélanie Laurent), who is immediately alarmed by Alex’s battered appearance—bruises and fresh cuts marking her face. Carole’s shock is met with Alex’s dismissive promise to explain later—a promise that remains unfulfilled. This isn’t just a throwaway moment; it’s a glimpse into a world where such rough nights are par for the course.
Directed by Mélanie Laurent, “Wingwomen” is not your average heist movie. It’s laced with a humor that’s understated, relational, and delivered with a light touch. The film avoids the pitfall of slapstick, instead finding its laughs in the organic chemistry between friends—their inside jokes, shared laughter, and unspoken understandings. Adapted from the graphic novel “The Grand Odalisque” by Jérôme Mulot, Florent Ruppert, and Bastien Vivès, the film is as much an action-packed adventure as it is a tribute to the enduring bond between Carole and Alex.
The fusion of buddy-comedy and action-adventure is a genre often reserved for male leads, with a few notable exceptions like “Thelma and Louise.” However, “Wingwomen” steers clear of the cliché narrative of two “badass” women wreaking havoc. Instead, it presents Carole and Alex as multifaceted characters—they’re skilled, sometimes cold-blooded, but always human. The film subtly navigates their deep connection amidst the chaos of their high-stakes heist lifestyle.
Carole and Alex are not just friends; they’re professional thieves tied to the enigmatic “Godmother” (portrayed by the formidable Isabelle Adjani), who plucked them from obscurity into a life of crime. Their dynamic extends beyond their heists; they’re entangled in the minutiae of each other’s lives, from grocery squabbles to heart-to-hearts about love and life. As they plot their escape from this perilous world, they find themselves bound by a final job from Godmother—a promise of freedom that they suspect might be empty.
“Wingwomen” Weaves Complexity into Heist Antics
The final heist is a labyrinthine task that sends Alex and Carole on a whirlwind tour of criminal errands. They must secure architectural plans, procure weapons from an arms dealer, and ultimately, pilfer a piece of pop-art—a kitschy rendition of “The Grand Odalisque” by Martial Raysse, which Godmother derisively dismisses as “kitsch.” To aid in their elaborate scheme, they enlist Sam (Manon Bresch), a racer with no criminal past, prompting a reluctant Alex to initiate a rigorous training montage.
Antoine Roch’s cinematography is a visual ode to the Mediterranean’s allure, capturing Sam’s thrilling motorbike maneuvers through the serpentine roads of the Italian Riviera. The film populates its world with a cavalcade of quirky characters, each with layers that defy first impressions. Mélanie Laurent, in a candid interview with Variety, discusses her deliberate efforts to sidestep the clichés often found in the depiction of female camaraderie in film. She critiques the trend of crafting female action heroes as invincible “badasses,” often at the expense of their depth and vulnerability. Laurent’s vision for “Wingwomen” was to infuse it with a rock ‘n’ roll spirit—a “French touch” that contrasts with the sanitized action of mainstream American cinema.
Laurent’s prowess as an actress and filmmaker shines through in “Wingwomen.” Her previous works, like the emotionally charged “Breathe” and the dramatic “The Mad Women’s Ball,” showcase her range and fearlessness in storytelling. Her attention to detail breathes life into every scene, drawing out the raw humor of Exarchopoulos, the resilient charm of Bresch, and the commanding presence of Isabelle Adjani as the stylish crime lord.
Laurent’s introduction of Adjani’s character is a cinematic homage in itself. The crime boss is first seen in a solitary movie theater, absorbed in Henri Decoin’s 1952 classic “La Verite sur Bebe Donge.” This scene is a subtle nod to French cinema legends, connecting Adjani to the legacy of Danielle Darrieux and Jean Gabin. While this moment doesn’t propel the plot, it underscores Laurent’s emphasis on the richness of relationships over narrative mechanics. Although “Wingwomen” may falter in its finale, the film’s vibrant journey—with its blend of action, humor, and heartfelt moments—makes it a compelling watch.
Available on Netflix.
For those intrigued by the interplay of friendship and crime in “Wingwomen,” or simply looking for a new addition to their Netflix queue, the film is now available for streaming. And if you’re in search of more curated cinematic experiences, explore the collections at HitPlay for a selection of movies and TV shows that might just capture your fancy.