A Star is Born, and Elle Fanning is that Star
Recently, I’ve been given two Indies about rock stars and their ambitions. “Her Smell” was a fresh take on a 90s punk rock star and her drug addiction that nearly destroys herself. Elisabeth Moss was fine in that role. And now, I’m dishing on “Teen Spirit,” which is also the directorial debut of Max Minghella.
Only differences: this isn’t about drug addicts; it’s about a young dreamer sort of in the vein of “A Star is Born.” Any version applies, for the record, just minus the Hollywood romance. Especially since she says: “Love’s not real.”
And they’re both set in different generations. In this case, it has current pop hits, fan selfies, and singing competitions.
And another case, the story, also written by Minghella, takes place on the Isle of Wight, UK, where we meet a young English-Polish singer named Violet (Elle Fanning). She’s also part of a church choir, listens to her headphones, and hears about the Teen Spirit singing competition.
She auditions for the audition (apparently, it’s two things), but she needs an adult guardian to sign her up. She can’t tell her mother (Agnieszka Grochowska) so she turns to a former Opera singer Vlad (Zlatko Buric) for help. He has to portray her uncle, but he would prefer to be her manager.
The songs Violet performs are her covers of hits from Robyn and Ellie Goulding, among others. She has a fine singing voice, but she still needs some work done on her breathing. She eventually wins a trip to London for the finals, and Rebecca Hall pops up as another agent who offers Violet a contract. As usual in the movie law of contracts, this tests the relationship between Violet and Vlad.
“Teen Spirit” and “Her Smell” both have a lot in common. They both take awhile for me to understand the characters and their situations, and they represent different generations of musicians. In “Teen Spirit,” we see Fanning easing her emotions and keeping her intelligence as the main heroine. And Buric is funny, affectionate, and honest as the would-be Opera legend. These two have chemistry.
At times, we see bright colorful lights, matching the tone and complexity of the hit music and their singers. And at times, we see cliches like contest rules, partying, financial troubles, and family issues.
But for what it’s worth, “Teen Spirit” has its heart in the right place, and most of the way through, I was interested. But really, we have to give credit to Max Minghella for breaking form as a first-time director.