Teen Spirit review

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Elle Fanning stars in Teen Spirit, that arrives in UK cinemas at the end of July – here’s our review.

Certificate: 12A
Director: Max Minghella
Cast: Elle Fanning, Zlato Buric, Rebecca Hall
Release date: 26th July
Reviewer: Anna Wilczek

Ever since her star-making turn in 2011’s Super 8, it’s been a pleasure to watch Elle Fanning grow and develop as an actor; from politically minded campaigner in Ginger & Rosa, to It-girl supermodel in The Neon Demon, her choices are always refreshing and never predictable. Her most recent turn in Max Minghella’s (son of Anthony) Teen Spirit allows her to fill the popstar mould with ease as aspiring singer Violet.

A Cinderella story of a working-class girl living with her Polish single mother, whose life is transformed when open auditions for an X Factor/The Voice style talent show arrive in town. It is former Croatian opera star and alcoholic Vlad – an untraditional choice for the role of fairy godmother – who must not only assist her with her vocal training but also help her navigate the shark-infested waters of fame and the music industry. None more ruthless than Rebecca Hall’s Simon Cowell-esque judge and producer Jules, who dismisses Violet as “an inexperienced performer with a Polish surname and a posh accent”.

With the recent spate of actors-turned-directors (Jonah Hill, Seth Rogan, Brie Larson) Minghella, probably best known for his roles in The Handmaid’s Tale and The Social Network, is the latest to turn his attentions behind the camera. He demonstrates a strong directorial flair and successfully taps into the contrived world of reality television; from cringe-inducing intros to camera, to terrible tween cover versions of rock classics and over-produced dance routines. However, at times the film runs the risk of become a little too parodic and montage-heavy, which can feel jarring when contrasted with the hypnotic neons and lights Minghella employs during Violet’s ‘Teen Spirit’ showcases.

With a toe-tapping soundtrack filled with inspirational female artists including Robyn, Grimes and No Doubt (with a less on-the-nose use of ‘Just a Girl’ than in March release Captain Marvel), the surprise here isn’t that Fanning looks like a pop star, but rather that she sounds just like one too, and one with zero need for the assistance of auto-tune at that. She elevates what could otherwise be dismissed as Cinderella-meets-Flashdance, and even manages to perfect a Polish accent. She possesses the rare ability to convey every emotion through her vocals and performance, and I can only hope that her future holds a leading role in a movie musical.

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