TIFF Review: ‘Teen Spirit’ Rides High on Elle Fanning’s Scintillating Performance

There are movies that you love because they intellectually stimulate you. Then there are movies that you remember because they touch your heart. ‘Teen Spirit’ belongs to the latter category. It is one of those films that blows you over due to its sheer honesty. There is nothing path-breaking about ‘Teen Spirit’. We have seen similar stories several times before. And yet, I was crying overwhelmed with emotion when the film ended. Cinema surprises you in strange ways. Sometimes you watch the most outrageously brilliant stories and yet come out of the theatre unaffected. At other times, simplest of stories work like magic. Yes, ‘Teen Spirit’ brilliance is in its simplicity. There is no pretense, no over-ambition. It is a film meant to entertain and inspire you, and that it does better than any movie I have seen this year.

‘Teen Spirit’ follows 17-year-old Violet (Elle Fanning) who lives with her mother on a small farm on the Isle of Wight. Her days are spent doing chores, waiting tables, and attending secondary school, where she keeps to herself. She’s also a gifted singer who likes to sing and dance in the privacy of her room. One day, out of her nowhere, opportunity strikes her door when a talent hunt group comes to her town searching for singers for a Reality TV show Teen Spirit. Violet decides to participate in the audition with the hep of Vlad (Zlatko Buric), a once-celebrated opera singer who is also an alcoholic. In the end, ‘Teen Spirit’ turns out to be a story of courage and friendship that will move you to tears.

The film is the directorial debut of actor Max Minghella (The Handmaid’s Tale) who shows amazing control and understanding of the medium. He exactly knows when to push your emotional buttons. What is also impressive about the film is its cinematography that is a mix of dimly-lit visuals and razzle-dazzle of music-videos.

But the real star of the show is Elle Fanning. In fact, ‘Teen Spirit’ won’t be the film it is without Elle Fanning. She sings like there is no tomorrow (she has a voice that can even established singers jealous). She dances like a dream. She performs like an ace rock star. In short, she is just scintillating from start to finish.

If there is one complaint I have with the movie, it is that it ends too soon. Frankly, the ending feels a little abrupt. I wanted to see more of Violet. I wanted to know more about her life after Teen Spirit. I wanted to know how she handles fame. In a way, the fact that as an audience you yearn for more proves how effective the storytelling is. Sequel, anyone?

Rating: 4/5

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