Two motion pictures about irradiated girls in a single yr? Sure, why not. Radium Girls — now on Netflix — follows barely on the heels of Amazon’s Radioactive, a bio of Marie Curie, the groundbreaking scientist who found and totally researched radiation. Radium Girls is led by Joey King of Ramona and Beezus fame (OK, The Kissing Booth too), enjoying a teenage worker of a company that’s slowly been poisoning its younger feminine watch dial painters with radium — and she or he’s going to do one thing about that in fact.


The Gist: Orange, New Jersey, 1925. Radium has been hailed by snake-oil salesmen as a remedy for no matter ails you — nausea, most cancers, impotence, ennui. Ennui? Yeah. Ennui. That’s what they are saying: ennui. And right here we thought that was incurable. Seventeen-year-old Bessie (King) and her older sister Josephine (Abby Quinn) toil away at American Radium, the place they paint watch faces with glow-in-the-dark radium. It’s a profitable enterprise, because the watches are offered to troopers who can see what time it’s within the trenches and foxholes, and someplace in here’s a tasteless joke about loss of life, so I received’t trouble to seek for it. Bessie and her co-workers are instructed to dab their paintbrushes on their tongues to hurry alongside the method, which works in everybody’s favor — the extra, the merrier for the corporate, and the ladies earn a penny per watch face.

Curiously, the ladies’ elder sister was additionally employed at American Radium, and she or he handed away some time again — of syphilis, in accordance with a physician employed by American Radium. Hmm. Jo begins exhibiting unusual signs together with dizziness, aches and pains, and her tooth are falling out. The doc diagnoses her: syphilis it’s! DOUBLE hmm. Consider the truth that she’s by no means had intercourse with anybody, and you’ll add a 3rd hmm to that. Meanwhile, Bessie meets a pleasant fella named Walt (Collin Kelly-Sordelet), who introduces him to a bunch of politically conscious artists and the like, which leads her to a consumer-protection group, who get Jo in entrance of a physician who has no ulterior motive. The analysis is grave. She has radium poisoning. It’s in her bones. She has two years to reside.

Bessie and the ever-weakening Jo collect a couple of allies, additionally sickly or on their strategy to such, and lawyer up. It’s not a simple path. Their grandfather, whom they reside with, is an ol’ coot who thinks they’re only a coupla dumb ladies. Current American Radium staff don’t need to lose their jobs, and assume the ladies are filled with shit and conspiracy theories. And American Radium itself is the kind of goliath that may throw cash at protection attorneys till these poor ladies’ irradiated skeletons half-life into the soil. But Bessie won’t be deterred. She’s up for the ups and downs of grueling litigation. And she has public opinion on her aspect — and the press too, who give the group a catchy title that may finally make for a pleasant film title someday within the twenty first century. No, it’s not The Women Who Took On the Man.

Photo: Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Radium Girls exists someplace within the middling feminist-activist-bio ether together with Radioactive and Suffragette.

Performance Worth Watching: Joey King has been in tons of stuff since she modified the face of cinema with Ramona and Beezus. (No, significantly, Ramona and Beezus is fantastic!) So a lot stuff, she in all probability may’ve handed on this one — she does what she will be able to, and the luxurious interval style fits her effectively, however the materials is sketch. But hey, Kissing Booth 3 coming later this yr!

Memorable Dialogue: I by no means thought I’d hear Ramona Quimby say, “Our bones will glow forever, you know,” however right here we’re.

Sex and Skin: None. Syphilis, my ass.

Our Take: Radium Girls boasts good intentions however is tonally amateurish and poorly executed. The characterizations are bland, the dialogue rings trite and the drama is a squashed-flat trudge from one overly acquainted plot level to the following. It has many elements of a disease-of-the-week weeper, besides the emotional authenticity that might make us weep. And then it turns into an Objection! Overruled! yawner of a courtroom drama. Drop one or two particulars about radium, and there’s nothing right here to differentiate it from dozens of different motion pictures of its ilk boasting strong-willed protagonists with their eyes on justice and shifty-eyed villains with their eyes on the underside line.

Strange for a film based mostly on a real story, Radium Girls doesn’t plaster the phrases “based on a true story” wherever on the display. It concludes with the standard text-explainer postscript telling us what occurred subsequent, although. The plot consists of main factors plucked from a Wikipedia entry, then colours Bessie’s journey via it with Black characters who encourage her activism with their tales about inequity and police brutality. These moments are naught however a couple of crumbles of salt in a flavorless broth. The actual Radium Girls deserve a greater film — one with richer characters, a greater sense of the radium craze of the day (they skipped one chunk of the Wikipedia web page) and a extra rousing depiction of the feminist and employee’s-rights implications of the story. This one barely covers the bases and calls it good, and that simply ain’t sufficient.

Our Call: SKIP IT. Didn’t remedy my ennui.

John Serba is a contract author and movie critic based mostly in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read extra of his work at or observe him on Twitter: @johnserba.

Watch Radium Girls on Netflix