Review: Teen Spirit

Teen Spirit
9 10

PLOT: A shy teenage girl dreams of a singing career and bringing music into her life. When a retired opera singer discovers her, he convinces the girl and her mother that she has the talent to enter a possible life changing singing competition.

REVIEW: If you just hear the storyline for TEEN SPIRIT, it may not appear to be the kind of film that you'd immediately expect it to be. A teenage girl dreams of becoming a pop star and enters a local singing competition in hopes of bringing her voice to the world. What could have been a by the numbers story of musical stardom is a wonderfully grounded, and at times, profound look at the desperate need to be heard. Perhaps it’s in part due to the impressive directorial debut of Max Minghella. The actor brings a sense of honesty to this tale, as well, treats the music respectfully in a way that is rarely done with pop songs. You won’t find the typical glossy and vapid teenage dream here. This is a heartfelt look at a lonely girl who learns to escape from her fears and frustrations with the power of song. And frankly, this is one of the rare times that pop music has felt meaningful and profoundly satisfying in a feature film.

Elle Fanning is Violet, a teenage girl who likes to disappear listening to her favorite music. While she is performing at a local establishment, an older gentleman named Vlad (Zlatko Buric) - a retired opera singer - is intrigued by her talent. With a little convincing, and an upcoming singing competition, Violet decides to audition with the help of Vlad. However, when she advances in the contest, she discovers that there are a few distractions that could easily bring her dreams crashing down around her. Will Violet find success and fulfill her desire to sing on a national stage? Or will the pressures and negative influences be too difficult a burden to bare? Either way, you’ll be tapping your feet all the way until the final - and quite frankly - stunning performance.

Teen Spirit, Elle Fanning, Max Minghella, Jamie Bell, musical, 2019It’s not easy to create a feel good movie without falling into the typical troupes of this kind of story. This is especially true when it comes to teenage fantasy type flicks. What most impressed me about TEEN SPIRIT is just how seriously that Minghella - who also wrote the script - takes Violet’s journey. You won’t find a bunch of ridiculously sappy moments where Violet discovers her voice, and perhaps takes a selfie or Instagram of her adventures. Violet isn’t what you’d expect from a lead in this kind of fable. She is straight forward and serious. Yet she still revels in the music that she surrounds herself with. There is joy. There is heartbreak. And there is the possibility of finding a place in this world. This is not just a dumbed down teen flick with lame jokes and ridiculous stereotypes.

Elle Fanning is something truly special. From MALEFICENT to THE NEON DEMON, the actress has proven to bring a bright and powerful light on the silver screen. And my goodness she can sing. We first see her taking on a lovely track called “I Was a Foo.l” and frankly it’s a joyful thing to watch. The actress not only sings the selections live, she also handles the Polish accent rather well, but it is when she is on stage when Violet truly feels at home. Or even when she is simply listening to her favorite tunes and “Dancing on Her Own” - a gorgeous cover of the hit song by Robyn. She isn’t quite the goofy and smiling teenager that you may expect in a story about a wanna be pop star. If you are looking for that flick, there are plenty of other choices that may entertain you. No, Elle brings a sadness to Violet, yet there’s hope that is blossoming deep inside her soul. This is a sublime performance.

Teen Spirit, Elle Fanning, Max Minghella, Jamie Bell, musical, 2019When it comes to the music, there are a ton of incredibly catchy songs included. Fanning covers everybody from Tegan and Sara, Robyn, Annie Lennox to Ellie Goulding, with an original tune written by Carly Rae Jespen and Jack Antonoff called “Wildflowers.” Much like Violet, it’s easy to get lost in the melodies that pour out of the speakers. Like most good musicals, the soundtrack moves this story forward with only a couple of songs not living up to their potential - those not performed by Fanning. However, every performance that Violet gives grabs your attentions in the best of ways. Her take on Sigrid’s “Don’t Kill My Vibe” had me smiling and damn near cheering out loud by the end. Even still, the cheerful sounds never take this feature down in any way. Much like a number of recent musical dramas, there is a raw power that’s conveyed with nearly every tune.

TEEN SPIRIT may not seem like a movie that will move you with its familiar storyline and collection of pop tunes. However, Minghella treats the material respectfully and gives his leading lady a chance to steer away from the kind of performance you’d expect in a  teen musical. Even if you don’t particularly like pop music, this one may still resonate thanks to how artfully done the film is. The supporting cast is solid, especially Mr. Buric as Violet’s coach, but it wouldn’t have worked without the right voice to lead us through. And yes, Fanning is that voice. Instead of following a similar film like say JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, this teenage fairy tale is probably closer to something like THE COMMITMENTS - Alan Parker’s brilliant ode to R & B and soul. If you want a movie that will put a smile on your face, yet not insult you with banality, you may very well find this worth giving a spin.

Source: JoBlo.com

Latest Entertainment News Headlines