TIFF 2018: Teen Spirit

Elle Fanning in Teen Spirit. Courtesy of TIFF.

Led by a standout performance from Elle Fanning as a musical sensation, Teen Spirit is a crowd-pleasing directorial debut for Max Minghella.

To say that Elle Fanning is a standout in this film is nothing short of an understatement.  With both her singing and the choreography, she takes her talent to the next level.  Fanning is phenomenal to say the least as a shy singer, Violet Valenski, growing up in the British Isle of Wight with a single mother.  All Violet wants to do is be a star.  She sees it as the only way out of the town.  When Violet passes by a billboard for the Teen Spirit show, it sparks something in her.

Aided by a patron, Vladimir Brajkovic (Zlatko Buric), of the bar where she usually sings, Violet is well on her way.  He uses his expertise as an opera singer to teach her the skills she needs to succeed at the next level.  Is it likely that she advances as far as she does without Vlad’s help?  Probably not.  Vlad wasted his own talent as an opera singer so he sees the opportunity to help Violet as being his second chance.

Violet is not an underdog by any means.  If anything, she’s holding herself back from achieving her full potential.  It likely hurts her that her mother doesn’t see her in the same way.  She wouldn’t be the first singer whose mom didn’t support her.  Once Violet starts becoming a success, her mother gives her endorsement.

Minghella and cinematographer Autumn Durald-Arkapaw film some of these songs as if they are music videos.  The music video vibe is what helps to set this film apart from the other music-centered films.  Every song that appears in this film has its own importance to the narrative.  Not only this but everything Fanning is singing is coming from live takes.  This is a rather impressive feat in its own right.

One of the reasons why this film is such a crowd-pleaser has to be because of La La Land producer Fred Berger.  This is a guy who knows how to produce a music-centered film!  There’s no telling just how many people signed on because of him.  More often than not, we pay the most attention to the cast members but what happens in the background more often than not does not get the same recognition.  Whether it’s the music team of Marius de Vries and Steven Gizicki or choregraphers Jonathan Lunn and Amir Hosseinpour, this film isn’t the same without them.

Making a film with music at the center is a hard task to pull off but Max Minghella does it so well in Teen Spirit with Elle Fanning leading the way.

CAST:  Elle Fanning, Zlatko Buric, Agnieszka Grochowska, Clara Rugaard, Archie Madekwe, Ursula Holliday, Jordan Stephens, Millie Brady, Ruairi O’Connor, and Rebecca Hall

Teen Spirit held its world premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program.  LD Entertainment acquired the US rights. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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