Teen Spirit (2019)
Critic Consensus: Teen Spirit tells a story we know by heart, but writer-director Max Minghella's connection to the material and Elle Fanning's remarkable performance add an effective hook.
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Critic Reviews for Teen Spirit
This is pure formula, but it's really enjoyable -- glossy with tremendous energy.
Actor Max Minghella cranks up the energy and flashy style for a directorial debut that makes you want to both cheer and dance.
As we've learned from Daniel LaRusso and a host of other underdogs in any manner of competitions, it's not impossible for heart to triumph over technique.
You go to the fair, you get your cotton candy, you know what you're in for: nearly unadulterated sweetness that melts into nothing almost as soon as you take it in.
This won't be the best movie audiences will ever see, but at least it's fun to watch with pretty visuals and upbeat songs.
Audience Reviews for Teen Spirit
Teen Spirit is a mediocre, underwhelming cinematic experience. Absent Elle Fanning and the list of prominent auto-tuned teen idols that pop-ulate the soundtrack, there would be no justification for this bland, pedestrian retread of the "rags to riches" story of a hard-working, poor young singer finding near overnight success in the music industry with her innate/inane talent and a little guidance by a wizened master. She somehow rises above minimal adversity to deliver an electrifying performance that resonates deeply with her family, peers, and community to become a Starâ¢. I don't think it's an unreasonably elitist stance to say that music with the emotional depth of a hairspray ad jingle hardly justifies watching a feature-length reiteration of the first 20 minutes of any episode of VH1's "Behind the Music". That could suffice for a review of the film, but I don't think I would have even brought up that I've seen Teen Spirit if my viewing hadn't been contextualized by the film I watched immediately after, the long awaited documentary of Aretha Franklin's jaw-dropping live performance at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Amazing Grace. One doesn't need to have any particular religious fervor or sentiment to appreciate the outpouring of spirit and soul from Reverend James Cleveland, the choir, and the audience, all beside Aretha erupting with vibrant joy and exultation from behind the pulpit. So with both of these films in mind, I would like to point out two of the most essential ingredients it takes to fully realize a quality music-centric film, whether it be biopic, musical, concert film, or musical drama. First of all, music is, at its core, an art form that more than any other exists within the realm of emotion. Sound itself is a physical and invasive experience that, sans serious technological impediments or physical abnormalities, is completely unavoidable, and as we grow and experience the sounds around us, we associate each vibration within a matrix of moods and emotions. The more one delves into the world of music, the more connections one makes with their memories and associations, and however intangible, ephemeral, and indescribable those experiences are, they nevertheless serve as guideposts to our emotional state before, during, and after. Perhaps this feeds into why subjective musical taste is always personally valued yet completely irrelevant to communicating the value of a tune, rhythm, noise, or ambiance because we are all on our own journey, and what we value today might be more or less emotionally potent tomorrow. Emotion is essential in anything that has to do with music (and experience in general), but to inform that emotion in any artificial context, and I might be going out on a limb here, we crave or at least have certain standards by which to verify the authenticity of that emotion. Now I'm not saying some of us can't just go with the flow, but I know for myself and many others, there is a brief moment of disconnect between the external experience and the internal dialogue when we watch a movie or hear a song, we don't immediately drop everything we are thinking and feeling to simply live in a moment that consumes us. To verify whether something is still worth our time we do checks on the authenticity of the experience and the place from which the art proceeds. Am I dreaming? Is someone putting me on? How much time do I have left, and should I spend it here, watching Elle mope and do Carly Rae Jepsen karaoke? So Fanning is a Polish farm girl on the Isle of Wight, living in a broken home, and pining for a bright future of wearing cute clothes and singing angsty, millenial synth-pop songs on the tele. Aside from the fact that I'm not the target market for this film, there should be some deeper human experience roping me in to seeing Fanning as anything other than a Hollywood It-girl who really wants to audition for Tegan & Sara. Oh there's emotion there alright, but the authenticity of it has about as much soul as the deodorant of the film's namesake. Then I look at Aretha Franklin, an actual young woman from a broken home who had risen from a tumultuous time in society to use her success to shed light on and celebrate her real community, surrounded by the family and friends who gave what they could to help her along the way, and a beacon of hope for a people who had been disenfranchised for centuries with the only respite to help them through near-insurmountable years of discrimination, hardship, and hatred the very music that they communed that evening to sing. I know, it's apples to oranges. It's a work of fiction versus documented reality, and who am I to pit the two against each other? I just think it's the perfect demonstration of what causes the bile to rise in my throat when I see mediocrity rewarded while true beauty falls to the way side time and again. Real beauty is sweaty and sometimes hard to watch, but it's always worth sitting through to the end. While Amazing Grace tore my heart out with zealous triumph, Teen Spirit was just hard to watch.
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