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Teen Spirit (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Teen Spirit


Starring Elle Fanning, Zlatko Buric, Agnieszka Grochowska, Rebecca Hall, Clara Rugaard, Archie Madekwe, Ursula Holliday, Jordan Stephens, Millie Brady, Ruairi O’Connor, Olive Gray, Vivian Oparah, Ria Zmitrowicz, Andrew Ellis, Charlie Mayhew, Marius De Vries, Elizabeth Berrington, Tamara Ronchese and Johnny Vaughan.

Screenplay by Max Minghella.

Directed by Max Minghella.

Distributed by Interscope Films. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13.

“Slow and suspenseful.”

These are the words my cousin, my companion to the screening of Teen Spirit, used to describe the film. It is an apt description if ever I have heard one. At one point I even caught her leaning forward in her seat, watching to see what would happen next in a suspenseful scene.

While the filming was slick and stylish, like a series of music videos spliced together between dramatic scenes, even predictable moments inched forward at a pace that led me to question what could happen (but didn’t…it stayed true to its inevitably predictable moments).

Teen Spirit tells the story of Violet (played by Elle Fanning), a 17-year-old hard-working student living in Isle of Wight, UK. She lives with only her mom, Marla, (played by Agnieszka Growowska) a hardnosed but beautiful woman trying to keep her family’s home.

When a singing reality show called Teen Spirit (sort of a variation on The X-Factor or American Idol) holds auditions for the first time on the island, Violet attends – even though she had previously only sung in church and a local pub) attends. Against the odds (and privileged classmates), she earns her place to return for the finals.

She recruits Vlad (played by Zlatko Buric), an older man with a drinking problem and an operatic past who has become a fan of her singing at the pub. He acts as her trusted adult guardian as required by the show for the finals for any singers under legal age. He agrees, but only if he becomes her manager with a promised percentage of her earnings if she is successful.

If you think this story, in general, sounds wildly familiar, you would be correct. Films like Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Hairspray, Flashdance, and even 2018’s Vox Lux and A Star Is Born all have similarities—young girl, down on her luck, working her way to fame and fortune.

It’s an underdog story that we’ve heard many times, but one that audiences tend to love, filled with the promise and trials of fame and instant stardom. The slow pace of the film allowed for some minor plot twists that nearly broke the predictability of the story. Nearly.

While Teen Spirit is not exceptional in its story, its characters are compelling. Also, the actors’ performances kept me wanting to learn more about their stories, beyond what is spelled out.

Elle Fanning proves to be a triple threat, not only acting and dancing, but also singing Violet’s pop songs throughout the film. Her performance in the final piece, “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” is breathtaking on the big screen and really captured her energy and hard work throughout the film.

In the end, maybe it’s my age, or the not-quite-well-enough developed characters of Marla and Vlad, but I was left wanting to know more about the stories the adults, their futures or lack thereof. Is it too much to ask for a sequel where we leave Violet’s story and embark on the story of the strong-but-broken beauty and the opera singer-turned-drunkard who becomes a quiet hero?

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: April 19, 2019.

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