Teen Spirit (2018)


Who said pop stardom isn’t easy?

(2018) Musical (Bleecker Street/LD Entertainment) Elle Fanning, Zlatko Buric, Rebecca Hall, Agnieszka Grochowska, Archie Madekwe, Millie Brady, Vivian Oparah, Marius de Vries, Elizabeth Berrington, Olive Gray, Andrew Ellis, Ruairi O’Connor, Jordan Stephens, Tamara Luz Ronchese, Clara Rugaard, Daisy Lowe, Ursula Holliday. Directed by Max Minghella

 

I think it’s fair to say (and I think that most teens and millennials would agree) that the world is constructed to kill dreams. Those that want to be creative, expressive or otherwise different are discouraged; laboring at some soul-killing task over and over again is what’s expected. Nobody in their right mind wants to do that for the rest of their lives; some really don’t have much of a choice. Those that have talent though, we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time discouraging it.

Violet (Fanning) lives on the bucolic Isle of Wight off the coast of England, a place forever immortalized by the Beatles in ”When I’m Sixty-Four” thusly: “Every summer we could rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight (if it’s not too dear)” as well as a famous pop festival that took place there. Musically, that’s pretty much it for the Isle of Wight. It does possess a large Polish population of which Violet and her mother (Grochowska) are members of. Violet goes to school (she’s 17 years old), takes care of the horse that she rides whenever she can, works as a waitress in a pub after school and occasionally sings in a different pub; it is the last of these that mum disapproves of as being impractical so Violet has to do it on the sly. However, she does meet an alcoholic ex-opera singer who offers to be her manager so there’s that.

The family is in pretty dire financial straits; the horse gets repossessed because they can’t afford to pay for it any longer. Violet’s life is going exactly nowhere and she is frustrated as anyone would be. Then, a bit of excitement; the American Idol-like pop music competition show Teen Spirit is holding auditions in her town for the very first time and nearly everyone in school is trying out. Shy Violet decides to try out and to nobody’s surprise, she is selected for the local competition. To nobody else’s surprise, she ends up going to the finals in London which are televised. However, she needs a parent or guardian to sign off on her participation which her mother will never do so Violet remembers Vlad (Buric), the alcoholic ex-opera singer and puts him to work as her manager/instant guardian.

The rest of the movie you can pretty much figure out for yourself. There are a couple of swerves that aren’t particularly hard to see coming as well as some predictable moments of fame going to Violet’s head and a few heart-warming moments in between all the gaudily shot music videos of her performances, all bathed in pink and blue neon and looking like a New York art installation from the early 90s. That’s not bad in and of itself but it does kind of scream “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!”  in an unnecessarily loud cinematic voice.

Fanning is a talented performer as an actress and not a half-bad singer to boot but her character, who is supposed to be terribly shy and innocent (except when she’s not) is so passive and bland that it’s hard to figure out why she would want to stand up in front of a television audience and pour her heart out onstage. We never get a sense as to why Violet is motivated to become a singer other than she likes doing it.

The songs that Violet and her competition perform are mainly covers of iconic pop songs over the last 20 years, many of which have to do with female empowerment which is part of the ostensible thrust of the film, although one has to consider the fact that Violet and her mother struggle mightily on their own but once a man comes in to the picture for guidance success is theirs. It seems quite at odds with the musical message the film seems hell-bent on sending.

But even though Violet is more vanilla, the relationship between her and Vlad is at least genuine and comprises the heart and soul of the film. Even though Vlad is a polar opposite to Violet, his gruff exterior masks a teddy bear interior that genuinely cares for Violet and wants her to succeed not for his own aggrandizement but for hers.

The performance footage is mainly over-produced; it’s telling that the most genuine and affecting performance is when Violet dances and sings No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” in the privacy of her own bedroom; it’s raw and feels more authentic. That seems to be one of the few moments when we get a glimpse of who Violet truly is. We could have used more of them.

At the end of the day, this movie comes down to whether or not you like American Idol. If fresh-faced young people performing covers of familiar songs for the right to become a pop star in their own right is something that thrills you, chances are you’re going to love this film. If you find American Idol to be a cynical means of keeping potential pop stars as disposable product rather than genuine artists, you probably won’t care much for this film. Me, I tend to lean towards the latter but that doesn’t mean you won’t find something in the film to like.

REASONS TO SEE: The relationship between Violet and Vlad is believable and at the center of the film.
REASONS TO AVOID: The story needs more fleshing out.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some sexually suggestive content as well as depictions of teen drinking and smoking.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: There are parallels to the film Flashdance and the theme from that film is even used in this one.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/22/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 70% positive reviews: Metacritic: 57/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: American Dreamz
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Marching Forward

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New Releases for the Week of April 19, 2019


THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA

(New Line) Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Tony Amendola, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen. Directed by Michael Chaves

A young social worker and her kids find themselves being stalked by the legendary La Llorona, the Weeping Woman. In order to save her family, the social worker must put their lives in the hands of a disillusioned priest who is practicing a strange sort of mysticism taking them to a realm where faith and fear collide.

See the trailer, a clip and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence and terror)

Breakthrough

(20th Century Fox) Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter. Based on a true story, this film dramatizes the story of the Smith family whose son falls through the ice into a lake. Miraculously he survives but in a coma. His mother marshals her family, friends and neighbors to begin a national prayer campaign to save her son.

See the trailer, clips and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Christian Family Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for thematic content including peril)

Finding Julia

(XL141) Andrew McCarthy, Ha Phuong, Kieu Chinh, Richard Chamberlain. A Eurasian acting student is having trouble fitting in, caught between East and West. Recurrent nightmares about the accident that took her mother’s life begin to make her question her own sanity.

No trailer currently available
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Mystery
Now Playing: Regal Oviedo Marketplace
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material, sexuality, violent/bloody images, and language)

High Life

(A24) Stephen Eric McIntyre, Timothy Olyphant, Joe Anderson, Rossif Sutherland. A quartet of drug-addicted petty criminals get set to pull out what they think is a foolproof heist robbing bank ATMs by posing as repairmen but things don’t go quite as planned as is usually the case for that sort.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for drug use, pervasive language and some violence)

Kalank

(FiP) Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt. A small village on the Northern Indian frontier goes through severe changes as the partitioning of the country is about to get underway. A forbidden romance unearths secrets long buried and rivalries long simmering as violence threatens to overwhelm love.

See the trailer and clips here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Touchstar Southchase
Rating: NR

Penguins

(DisneyNature) Ed Helms (narrator). Steve, an Adėlie penguin in the Antarctic, hopes to start a family in the frozen wasteland of the South Pole, but nothing ever comes easy in the most inhospitable place on earth.

See the trailer, interviews, video featurettes and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Nature Documentary
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: G

Peterloo

(Amazon) Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Tim McInnerny, David Bamber. In 1813 a cavalry charge into a peaceful crowd demonstrating for democratic reform in a field near Manchester became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Oscar-winning director Mike Leigh brings this mostly forgotten historical event back to life.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Historical Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square
Rating: PG-13 (for a scene of violence and chaos)

Teen Spirit

(Bleecker Street) Elle Fanning, Rebecca Hall, Zlatko Buric, Agnieszka Grochowska. A shy teen on the Isle of Wight impulsively enters a national singing contest and to everyone’s surprise makes it all the way to the finals. Her manager, a former opera star, tries to help her navigate the pitfalls of stardom but will it be enough?

See the trailer, video featurettes and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Musical
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Barnstorm Theater, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Cobb Daytona, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Port Orange Pavilion, Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content, and for teen drinking and smoking)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Athiran
Daddy Issues
Her Smell
Jersey
Kavaludaari
Last Fool Show
Little Woods
The Pilgrim’s Progress

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

3 Faces
Amazing Grace
Athiran
Jersey
Kavaludaari
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Ramen Shop
Yellaipookal

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Amazing Grace
Athiran
Drunk Parents
Jersey
Kanchana 3
Kavaludaari
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Stuck
Yellaipookal

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Amazing Grace
Athiran
The Brink
Dead Man
Her Smell
Jersey
Kavaludaari
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Woman at War

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Curse of La Llorona
Little Woods
Penguins
Ramen Shop
Teen Spirit

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Florida Film Festival, Maitland/Winter Park FL