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Gunpowder Milkshake Intricately Balances Warmth and Nerdy Girl Power

Official Key Art poster for Gunpowder Milkshake
 Cr: REINER BAJO/© 2021 STUDIOCANAL SAS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Gunpowder Milkshake intricately balances warmth and nerdy girl power landing itself on the list of the kind of film energy we could all channel this summer. Navot Papushado’s directed feature is gorgeously executed, and though full of a lot more violence than I would generally prefer, in its storytelling it’s somehow entirely wholesome.

The film is a gritty explosion of emotions, and so dazzlingly colorful, it’s impossible to look away even during the violent outbursts. (Close your eyes but open them again.) Director Papushado told Film School Rejects: “Every color in the film means something different,” says Papushado. “For example, yellow means death, from the bag of weapons to the body bags that we manufactured specifically for this film. And orange means change. Color is the most important thing, and that’s where we started, and then it led to film noir and art deco and architecture. All of that builds texture and mood.” The comparisons we can draw are endless, and that in and of itself, makes the film a marvel to analyze.

Gunpowder Milkshake is the story of mothers and daughters and lifelong friends even after time away. Sometimes mothers take care of daughters, other times it’s the daughters that call the shots. The aunts are always there no matter how much time has passed, and sometimes, a found family is the best family. (If The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was an action film, this would be it.)

It’s a film presented through patterns, stunning visuals, astute, figurative dialogue, and one heck of an effervescent original score. The action sequences feel like choreographed dance numbers and tethered intrinsically to the score, they’re a sight to behold.

Gunpowder Milkshake is Little Women in 2021

Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino, and Karen Gillan in the Library Scene
Cr: REINER BAJO/© 2021 STUDIOCANAL SAS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

As an English major, the literary quips and metaphors floored me, thereby, to dissect just how much it binds the story together, let’s talk about Little Women, and the detail that the story pans out so interestingly to the books. Carla Gugino’s Madeleine is Beth, Lena Headey’s Scarlet is Amy, Michelle Yeoh’s Florence is Meg, and Angela Bassett’s Anna May is Jo. (We could argue the switch in Headey and Bassett’s characters, but this to me works, after all—while Jo is the one to leave for a while, Scarlet’s energy screams Amy March in the best way.) And then there’s Karen Gillan’s Eva, who’s the youngest, but ultimately, the Marmee of the group.

Thus, in the final shot when Chloe Coleman’s Emily visits Nathan (Paul Giamatti) to threaten that The Firm must stand down, holding Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women shifts the trajectory of the series brilliantly by exhibiting that women can be everything and more.

A group of men used to run the show, but now it’s the women. It’s always been. In Gunpowder Milkshake, they are the very backbone of the quest—the quiet, the overlooked, the ones lurking in the shadows—they’re the powerful ones.

They’re the ones to look out for—the ones who aren’t just prepared to clean up the messes, but the ones who’ll protect and take care of each other. Gunpowder Milkshake, at its core is a love letter to a lot of exemplary women that have come before, but it’s also a love letter to friendship and sisterhoods.

A Love Letter to Storytelling

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (L-R): KAREN GILLAN as SAM, CHLOE COLEMAN as EMILY. Cr: REINER BAJO/© 2021 STUDIOCANAL SAS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
 Cr: REINER BAJO/© 2021 STUDIOCANAL SAS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Gunpowder Milkshake is a love letter to literature and it’s a love letter to films. And in its intricate warmth, it lets kids be kids while also giving them the chance to fight alongside the older folks thereby, stating through this decision that kids can be more reliable than we let on.

And in its symbolic representation, the detail that books are a weapon might just be my favorite thing because this nerd will always scream from the rooftops that books are in fact the most powerful tool we have.

It’s a brilliant metaphor that touches on the notion that nerds shouldn’t be trifled with, and the quiet corners of libraries hold more secrets than war offices can gather. I also can’t help but think of just how well Rachel Weisz’s Evelyn O’Connell (The Mummy) would fit into this story. Case in point, we should tell more stories from the perspectives of librarians.

In every way, knowledge has always been the sturdiest weapon; thereby, to see books represented in such skillfully emblematic form boldly roars about the detail that women who read, are women who are pretty damn powerful. Novels are the best kind of weapons, and much like women, hidden in its details is the showcase that beyond physical covers, endless stories representing strength are often waiting to be read through.

Feminism and Layers

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (L-R): LENA HEADEY as SCARLET, KAREN GILLAN as SAM. Cr: REINER BAJO/© 2021 STUDIOCANAL SAS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
 Cr: REINER BAJO/© 2021 STUDIOCANAL SAS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It’s frankly shocking that Gunpowder Milkshake is directed by a man because action films like this tend to gloss over a woman’s strength in physical form, and so often resort them to one dimensional heroines who are always on the sidelines. But the women in this film are layered, bold, and warm. They’re smart and they’re soft. They’re insanely badass, and they’re quietly curious. They’re multifaceted in all the ways that feel relatable, and it each of their arcs are set up intricately by the time we get to the end.

Where the was once the March women, today it’s the Librarians.

The women on Gunpowder Milkshake aren’t just tough cookies and nothing more, but at the end of the day, they’re people who are layers of femininity amidst the violence. The milkshakes are a part of their story, and they’re part of the vulnerability they touch base with by seeking the kind of comforts that have brought warmth on cold, rainy nights. They’re tired, they’re bold, and they’re wickedly smart, and they trust their hunches.

Gunpowder Milkshake is gorgeous, a whole lot of a fun, and the kind of action-packed female driven film that I hope serves as an example for more like it to follow. While campy storytelling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, something about this film feels like it’ll work regardless. It’s full of fascinating storytelling and gorgeously shot sequences that are easily a thrill to watch.

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