Thursday, April 18, 2019

Elle Fanning receives a showcase

Sometimes, critical standards need to be twisted a bit. That's how I felt about Teen Spirit, a somewhat flimsy Max Minghella-directed variation on a Star is Born theme that places Elle Fanning in a starring role. No one is going to confuse Fanning's Violet with a character from Chekhov, but Teen Spirit bounces its way into theaters with a tailwind of energy behind it and a commanding performance from Fanning. A young woman living on the Isle of Wight, Fanning's Violet wants to sing. Her singing voice -- yes, it's really Fanning's -- proves stronger than anything Violet might say in normal conversation. Fanning makes it clear from the start that Violet isn't happy living with her Polish immigrant single mother (Agnieszka Grochowska). While singing to a sparse audience at a local bar, Violet meets an unlikely mentor, a disheveled Croatian (Zlatko Buric) who once was an opera star and now seems to be a drunk. Initially timid about the possibility, Violet quickly decides to enter a local talent contest. The winners will appear on a nationally televised talent show called Teen Spirit. Minghella fully embraces the absurdity of a story in which an opera star helps fashion a rock idol. He wisely refuses to wink at the brazen obviousness of any of the conceits in the screenplay, which he also wrote. Look, I'm not arguing that Teen Spirit ascends the ladder of greatness; I am saying that the highly energetic Teen Spirit gives Fanning a well-deserved showcase and that she takes full advantage of it. She creates a character who -- as her coach advises her -- sings from the heart.

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