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  • Agnieszka GrochowskaArchie Madekwe...
  • DramaMusicals
  • Max Minghella
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Cairo 360
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Teen Spirit: Depth Is Not an Instagram Filter

Unfortunately, depth cannot be faked nor added to a movie, like one adds a filter to a photo. Even if and when filmmakers follow the same formula of other films that have depth, depth is either present or absent; in the film, Teen Spirit depth is beyond absent.

Teen Spirit follows reserved high school student Violet (Elle Fanning) who participates in a singing competition in hopes of making her and her mum’s life (Agneiszka Grochowska) much better. Needing a guardian for the papers, and hiding her participation from her mother, Violet stumbles upon Vlad (Zlatko Buric), a washed-up opera singer who used to be somebody, before his drunken present. With no experience, and only Vlad by her side, can Violet make it to the top, or will she crack under the pressure of it all?

As you can probably tell Teen Spirit’s plot is the same old tale of an ordinary girl trying to be a star to get out of her hard life. We have probably seen this formula millions of times; indeed, the plot does not depart from the well-known formula, leaving little room for novelty and/or depth. Teen Spirit’s plot moves at a steady pace with small events happening at a regular rate, until it crawls its way to the singing competition’s finals and the outcomes.

The feature employs cool lighting effects and outstanding frames through the musical performances. Despite how interesting these aspects are, they do not hide the empty clichéd nature of the plot, and the somewhat shallow nature of the performances. As such, the film seem like one long mainstream music video.

Most of the songs chosen for the performances are catchy. That being said, while this is a smart strategy to employ (in as much as such songs are crowd-pleasers), they do not give the performances any uniqueness. In other words, the soundtrack is not as memorable as it could have been, if the filmmakers had chosen to opt for more original, and less mainstream, songs.

The film also has a major issue with characterisation, as it only provides snippets of background information on its protagonists. This provides for very little authentic character development, and leaves audiences unable to identify or feel sympathy towards the characters (especially with no knowledge of what actually drives them to do what they are doing). For example, we do not know why Violet wants to be a popstar nor do know what she will do if she wins the contest; all we know is that Violet likes to sing, has a hard life, and is very shy.

As for the acting, Elle Fanning’s performance was noteworthy, with a subtlety that fit her character perfectly and an explosion of emotions when her performance needed it most. Fanning is perhaps the only reason this feature is even remotely watchable. Zlatko Buric’s character is supposedly a cold man and Buric gave off that feeling with very few facial expressions; however, audiences did not really get to see much, or almost any, of the character’s emotions. Agneiszka Grochowska has a smaller, and easier, role; she plays a struggling single parent, which she played adequately.

Even if you like to watch singing competitions, or you are a fan of the whole star rising to the top formula, there is probably something much better for you watch than Teen Spirit.

Like This? Try

A Star Is Born (2018), La La Land (2016), Into the Woods (2014), Moulin Rouge! (2001).

360 Tip

This is the directorial debut of Max Minghella.

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