Teen Spirit

Elle Fanning stars as a wannabe pop artist in Max Minghella’s 'Teen Spirit'


Teen Spirit 1/2

Everyone wants to be a pop star, right? Well, Max Minghella certainly hopes so, because he doesn’t present a single feeling or motivation for his lead ingenue throughout all of Teen Spirit beyond unspecific longing and boredom. The new writer/director, best known for his acting roles in The Social Network and The Handmaid’s Tale, is more interested in revealing a carefully cultivated aesthetic than actually saying something with his debut, a musical drama that follows the rise of wallflower singer Violet (Elle Fanning) to stardom on an X-Factor-esque British competition show called Teen Spirit. Violet, a bottle-blond Polish girl from the Isle of Wight with a difficult mother (Agnieszka Grochowska) and a taste for singing mid-2010s indie hits, is a blank canvas onto which the audience can ascribe their wants, desires and dreams. Elle Fanning does moody like no one else, but her performance, no doubt as a result of the script, is frustratingly one-note, as if all her energy went into her (fine, but unremarkable) singing and there was nothing left when it came time to act. The arc of the story—Violet trains with a formerly great opera singer (Zlatko Buric), her success grows, they fight, they make up—has been done so many times before, you’ll surely recognize every earnest beat. Teen Idle might have been a more appropriate title—it’s got wordplay, references a 2012 Marina and the Diamonds song (“I wanna be a bottle blonde, I don’t know why but I feel conned”) that would have fit nicely with the film’s weirdly dated indie-pop soundtrack and doesn’t lead the audience on with any suggestion of “spirit.” Watch it at Boston Common, Kendall Square and in the suburbs.

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