Teen Spirit Smells Like a Pop Music Fever Dream

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Taylor Henderson

Weaponizing all the elements of a great pop song, Lionsgate's Teen Spirit is all at once fun, hopeful, aching, heart-wrenching, dazzling, lush, and so damn infectious.  

Be warned: you've probably seen an iteration of this story before. A small town girl living in a lonely world enters a singing competition and skyrockets to fame. She gets lost in the big city lights and has to remind herself who she is before she's waded in too deep. It might be a familiar tale, but director Max Minghella reinvigorates it with gorgeous cinematography and music from some of our favorite pop divas (Robyn, Tegan and Sara, and Ellie Goulding to name a few).

And there's one moment that catches all that energy at once. 

Reserved 17-year-old Violet (played by the charming Elle Fanning) makes her way to the stage for the performance that will seal her fate in the competition. The camera follows her ascension from backstage in one continuous shot. She touches the gold crucifix around her neck, the one her mother gave her because if her father sees it on TV, "maybe it'll bring him home." Violet's face is red with the anxiety of the moment, the pressure to do well not just from her mother and absent father, but of her whole town. Determination rises to the surface and surges from her eyes like electricity.

Without saying a word, both Violet and the viewer understand who she's doing all this for. Not her mother. Not her town. Not even her father. She rips off that gold chain as she struts on stage for a heart-pounding rendition of Sigrid's defiant electro-pop anthem "Don't Kill My Vibe."

The crowd roars—and we do too.  

Through Violet's story, Teen Spirit shows how our past can shape us. How a single pop song can capture all that loneliness and frustration and heartache and tears. How trauma can seep through the human spirit, and ultimately, how we can use it to make something truly beautiful—then dance to it. 

Teen Spirit premieres in New York and Los Angeles on April 12 and nationwide on April 19. Watch the trailer in the video below!

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