“Teen Spirit” is a ‘been there, done that’ standard story of a young teenage girl who wants to break out of her humdrum existence by becoming a famous star. The pathway to stardom is an English talent contest called ‘Teen Spirit’. But she is a basic nobody who lives with her mother on the Isle of Wight (off the southern coast of England). She has a difficult to pronounce last name (her mother was from Poland). But she has a beautiful voice, even with little formal training. She wants to take on this contest, to see if she can conquer the world.
Violet Valenski (Elle Fanning) is that down-and-out farm girl, and her father left many years ago. She attends school and works at a bowling alley with her mother as a waitress. But she sings in the church choir and really breaks out in song when she feeding the pigs or tending to the horses. She finds out that the ‘Teen Spirit’ squad will be in town to select new contestants. She knows her mother will not let her go, so she finds a older guy who has heard her sing ballads at the local talent night in the bar. His name is Vlad (Zlatko Buric) and he knows that Violet could be a very amazing singer. He knows a bit about singing himself. He is a former world-famous opera star.
Violet makes the first cut, but she has to explain to her mother Marla (Agnieszka Grochowska) that she and Vlad are going to audition for ‘Teen Spirit’ for a second time. Her mother is quite angry that Violet did not come to her, and she has many suspicious about Vlad. Why does he look so disheveled, and why does he smell of alcohol? She has misgivings, but then somebody else is selected for the contestant from the Isle of Wight. So it appears that Violet will put her dreams on hold for a while longer. But there is a phone call, telling here that the other person was rejected for the show. Violet will have a pass to the final program in London to compete for the big show.
In London, Violet is ready to take on the competition. She is with Vlad, who has agreed to take her there as long as he becomes her manager. She is getting ready for the performance, and she meets one of the main leaders from the ‘Teen Spirit’ program. Her name is Jules (Rebecca Hall) and she thinks Violet could have quite a future. Even if she does not win the final competition, she offers Violet a nice record contract. Of course, she would have to dump Vlad. Jules would become her real manager, so that Violet could have all the doors opened for her…
There are conflicts and drunken fights, and televised competitions. There are people’s feeling that will be hurt, and a small town on the Isle of Wight who will ecstatic that a local girl is competing. There all sorts of things that you would normally think you would see in a movie like this. There are many fairly standard turn-of-events before the final announcement of the winner. And while that all goes on, Violet just keeps her eyes focused on what she could have if she wins the whole enchilada.
Max Minghella has taken a step out from being just a regular actor to becoming the writer and the director for “Teen Spirit”. His vision is one that has been done over and over again, and he adds very little that is new or refreshing. He does a competent job, but there is not an above average aspect to this movie. Elle Fanning is quite fetching in this role, and her voice is good enough to carry the weight of the role. She has a breathy intensity to her vocals that can be quite pleasing to the ear. Zlatko Buric is pretty good as the down-on-his-luck former opera superstar. Rebecca Hall is also good in a very limited role.
Perhaps the best thing with this movie is that it can be paired with another movie coming out at the same time (“Her Smell”). So you can mix and mash-up these two movies as “Her Smells like Teen Spirit”…
Watch how music producer Marius De Vries (La La Land) prepared Elle Fanning for her role in this new “Music” featurette: