Work It review – not every story requires originality in order to succeed

By Daniel Hart
Published: August 7, 2020 (Last updated: January 31, 2023)
Netflix film Work It


Work It proves that not every film requires originality in order to succeed; the perfect character, cast and themes can elevate a rehashed story to a genuine level.

Netflix film Work It will be released on the platform on August 7, 2020. This review contains no spoilers.

Work It follows Quinn Ackerman (played by American singer and actress Sabrina Carpenter) whose dreams of a college admission rely on a performance at a dance competition. The character foolishly lies to the admissions officer, bewildered by the fact that they were not impressed by all her accolades. Instead of taking the burn, Quinn pretends she’s part of the hottest dance group in her school. Unfortunately, Quinn cannot dance — so she has to make her own dance group and compete in the solid hope that she will impress.

The premise naturally encourages an eye roll, making audiences believe they are about to embark on another version of Step Up, a film rehashed many times. My cynicism was diluted within the first twenty minutes; I was happy that Work It was a film worth watching and not a throwaway summer teen story.

Work It has less reliance on dance sets and centralises itself on the quirkiness of Quinn. Sabrina Carpenter provides a full-circle performance of a character that cannot dance. She manages to convince the audience that Quinn is in a box — consumed by control and needing to study anything in order to achieve an objective. Her persona does not reflect a person that can dance; movement, posture and clothes that are not freeing for a dancer. It’s a character sold remarkably well — Quinn is all about control, all about Ted Talks and all about ensuring she ticks all the boxes.

With the character well-sold, the transformation of Quinn and her devastating choice to decide to dance is what makes the comedy. I related to her awkwardness of trying to bust a move against more qualified peers. I understand every quip and joke she made to immerse herself into every social situation. Netflix’s Work It is an introvert’s worst nightmare; having to be “out there” to get into a college that you desire, despite usually not needing a creative public output in order to achieve admission.

And so, when the character finally forms into “acceptable” dance moves, there’s a feeling of elation and surprise. Sabrina Carpenter has convinced the world she cannot dance at all and yet the story brings the audience to that predictable yet heartwarming moment. Even when the character can dance, she leaves a tinge of awkwardness there just for good measure. Work It is the transformation that we’d all like to endure and achieve.

With well-developed character bringing the comedy by definition, Work It has a very standard and unoriginal storyline, which is not entirely unusual for Netflix. The end goal is to reach the dance competition with a group of misfits and defeat their opposition dance group from the same school. There is added depth in that one of the characters, Jasmine “Jas” Hale (played by Liza Koshy), used to dance for the enemy, but by being best friends with Quinn and having that association, she joins the other side. These two characters have the right on-screen chemistry — they are naturally funny and tend to bounce off each other, allowing the script to work.

Work It does play slyly with many themes; there is an assurance that the cast is diverse and there is a nod to disabled dancers — giving an impressive street dance scene. Most of the characters signpost that it’s okay to be different — the messages communicate that we do not have to conform to the generic superficial beings that we often admire on Instagram. Regardless if you are a boxed-in student or a misfit trying to get through life, you can still excel. This is an important message and one that films should impart more often.

Work It proves that not every film requires originality in order to succeed; the perfect character, cast and themes can elevate a rehashed story to a genuine level.

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