As an ABC after-school special on the dangers of shoplifting, the new Netflix teen series “Trinkets” falls short. Where’s the ominous music? Where’s the pat moralizing? Where’s the catchy title, something like “Stealing Away My Future!”
But as an engaging and nuanced drama, “Trinkets,” which premiered recently, is pretty good. The shoplifting is sort of in the backdrop, as the secret that forges a bond between three very different high school students.
Elodie (Brianna Hildebrand) is a shy teenager who has moved from Albuquerque to Portland, Oregon, following her mother’s death, to live with her estranged dad and his new family. Elodie moves through school hallways and house parties carefully. She looks frightened that she might shatter if she made contact with anybody.
Only when she’s stealing does Elodie feel some sense of control. The lighting and music changes and Elodie’s face radiates confidence as she swipes items. Even sliding a Slim Jim into her jacket pocket makes her feel powerful.
Then she’s caught. Her dad makes her attend Shoplifters Anonymous meetings, where she sees two other girls from her school. Tabitha (Quintessa Swindell) is a popular rich girl who seems to have it all, while Moe (Kiana Madeira) is a rebel who hangs out with the burnouts at school. Both of them are not who they appear to be either. Moe has good enough grades to apply to a prestigious college, and Tabitha has a secret artistic streak that she reveals on an anonymous Instagram account.
The risk of “Trinkets” is that, instead of deepening these characters, the characters trade one teen stereotype for another. (Tabitha’s not a mean girl, she’s artsy. She could be both!) Some of the supporting characters are also broadly drawn. Tabitha’s abusive boyfriend Brady seems like the villain in a bad ‘80s teen movie.
But the actors tend to rise above the clichés in the writing. Hildebrand deftly shows the anger and frustration beneath Elodie’s painful shyness. (I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that she also plays the butt-kicking superhero Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the “Deadpool” movies.) The show is refreshingly progressive about how modern teens see the world, too. There are several gender nonbinary supporting characters. One main character is revealed to be gay, and it’s barely even commented on.
“Trinkets” isn’t up to the level of some other recent streaming shows about teenage girls, including “PEN15,” or movies like “Booksmart” and “Edge of Seventeen.” But it’s got enough going for it to steal away a few hours of your time for a season-long binge.
Also on streaming: "Phantom Thread" director Paul Thomas Anderson has a surprise new movie premiering this Thursday on Netflix. Don't get too excited — it's a short "musical film" as opposed to a music video, produced in collaboration with Thom Yorke's new album "ANIMA." Or maybe get very excited?