Teen Spirit (Movie Review)

Is predictability in a film a bad thing? That question can be answered either way depending on the viewer’s perspective. In the case of Max Minghella’s writing/directing debut Teen Spirit, set for release in select theaters April 12th, and theaters everywhere April 19th, the ending—and general plot—can be seen from miles away… but that does not subtract from the film’s overall message.

Teen Spirit still.

Taking place on the Isle of Wight, an island just off the coast of England where Minghella himself grew up, a shy teenager (Elle Fanning: Maleficent 2014, The Neon Demon 2016) enters into a singing competition and must question everything she thinks she knows about herself. Violet is an outcast among her school peers. The daughter of Polish immigrants with a father who took off years ago, Violet is forced to work a job at a local pub in order to help her mother make ends meet.

Testing her vocal chops on a karaoke machine, in her church choir, or in the privacy of her own room was as much practice as Violet had before deciding to try out for a famous singing competition called Teen Spirit. She knows her conservative Christian mother will never allow it, so Violet forms an unlikely friendship with Vlad, a former opera singer (Zlatko Buric: Pusher 1996, 2012 2009), who bargains to be her manager.

Teen Spirit still.

The duo make an unlikely pairing as Violet climbs her way to the top of the Teen Spirit roster. In fact, their budding friendship is one of the most heartwarming aspects of this film. Buric convincingly plays the part of the washed-up singer attempting to keep Violet from making the same mistakes he did. When Violet’s loyalties and motivations are tested by the promise of fame and fortune, viewers cannot help but hope that Violet and Vlad keep their friendship intact.

Keeping in mind that Teen Spirit revolves around a singing competition, it is important to note this film’s killer soundtrack. Watching Fanning perform songs by important female artists like Robyn, Tegan & Sara, and No Doubt are among the film’s most exciting moments. Fanning herself recorded the vocals for each offering on this impressive soundtrack, reportedly without the help of auto-tune.

Hearing her own voice makes the on screen performances feel that much more memorable and dynamic. We will no doubt be seeing Fanning leading plenty of both big-budget and indie films for years to come. The soundtrack even features a few original songs including “Wildflowers,” written by Carly Rae Jepsen and Jack Antonoff. If nothing else, go check out this film for its great performances and all-star soundtrack.

Teen Spirit still.

As stated, the film’s plot is pretty predictable, but Fanning lays it all out on the table in her final performance, and the conclusion is sure to make your heart soar anyways. The competition aspect as a whole feels a bit stale, but the film’s real joy lies in its characters, their dynamics, and, of course, the music. Teen Spirit’s hazy, color-soaked, disjointed cinematography fits in right alongside the film’s Pop explosion soundtrack.

Additionally, a few unique shots keep the film’s so-so plot feeling fresh and interesting, and there are only a few slow moments in its quick 90 minute run-time. All this said, Teen Spirit is definitely worth checking out if you are into Pop music and feel-good, character-driven stories. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives it 4 out of 5 stars.

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