Max Minghella's debut feature updates the rise to stardom story for this generation. Teen Spirit often feels like a series of music videos and while there may not be a lot of depth to it, the film succeeds in surprising ways. Brimming with style and well, spirt, the movie won me over.
Elle Fanning stars as Violet Valenski. Violet is living on the Isle of Wight, going to school and working a server job. She dreams of getting off the island and becoming a singer. Her mother has other ideas, coming from a conservative and religious view. When an American Idol-like show comes to town, Violet sees her opportunity. She befriends Vlad (Zlatko Buric), a drunken former opera singer who believes in her. He stands in as her guardian for the audition and soon Violet finds that others see her talents.
Fanning does all her own singing in the film and is quite impressive at it. The film is further proof that she is one of the best young actresses out there. Throughout the film, excellent pop music is used to score Violet's trials in competing in the show. Minghella really gets how a pop song can mean everything to someone, becoming the words for their feelings. The sequences that play like music videos are often stunning.
I wish Violet's inner feelings were better defined. Her relationship with Vlad is what carries the film even if it doesn't pack a lot of emotional weight. We never fully get in Violet's head but the songs that were chosen for the film often help.
Teen Spirit is a pop song in a film. It is stylish and fun but a little empty. Minghella has made a solid debut feature and I will be eager to see what he does next. The film belongs to Fanning though. She shines throughout every minute of the film.