There is not much that is new in Max Minghella’s directorial debut Teen Spirit. It is a story we’ve heard a hundred times. Violet, a girl from meager means with an unlikely mentor, makes it as a contestant on a pop idol competition. Her mom says she needs to stay at home and work. Violet does not have many friends at school. Yet, she beats the odds and becomes a finalist.
However, this film has one thing the others don’t: Elle Fanning.
I must admit, I have a bit of a girl crush on Elle. I’ve never seen her give a bad performance AND she fainted in her dress at Cannes. A Queen. This film is not only full of her singing and flipping her hair, but just being a generally melancholic teen, aka my kryptonite.
Elle running her hands through her hair? Cinéma.
Elle dancing in her room to No Doubt’s “Just a Girl”? Cinéma.
Elle looking sad as she rides the bus? Cinéma.
Elle crying in a club while “Barbie Girl” plays in the background? You guessed it, Cinéma.
The writing and cinematography of the film is not bad, it’s just not super exciting. Cinematographer Autumn Durald often bathes Fanning in a neon light with an upbeat pop soundtrack. But we already knew Elle looked good under bright lights from her stellar role in Neon Demon (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn).
The film does play with the painful artifice of teen idol competitions and their desire to trap desperate teens in contracts that go against their best interest.
While I do think Minghella is a writer/director to watch, Teen Spirit didn’t amount to much more than a chill afternoon spent admiring Elle’s beauty from the comfort of my apartment. If he keeps Elle on his team, I’ll definitely be watching what he does next!