Mixtape movie review: Netflix’s teen drama is a nostalgic fest that will tug at your heartstrings
A film opening with Donna Lewis’ I Love You Always Forever and fireworks in the night sky might seem like a little bit of a cliche but it turns out to be the perfect prologue for Netflix’s teen drama, Mixtape. The film is a refreshing addition to the genre as it tells the story of a 12-year-old orphan Beverly Moody, played by the sprightly Gemma Brooke Allen, and her why-so-serious grandmother Gail Moody, portrayed by Modern Family star Julie Bowen.
Interestingly, the two spunkiest characters in the film – Beverly’s parents, who died when she was just two – feature throughout, in the form of old photographs, journal entries and a mixtape. The film, though it has some emotionally heavy moments, strays far away from being a sob-fest. It has no unnecessary flashbacks of happy childhood memories shown in black-and-white. This in turn, leaves plenty of room for Beverly’s journey from being a curious teenager to member of an all-girl-band.
Beverly’s only mission in life is to know all about her parents, which takes a daring turn when she stumbles upon a broken cassette, a mixtape. Firmly believing that the mixtape is actually a message from her parents, she converts it into a blue-print of how they lived their lives. Beverly befriends the ‘baddie’ of the school (Olga Petsa), an 'enthu-cutlet' neighbour (Audrey Hsieh) and a witty record store owner (Nick Thune) to recreate the past and relive her parents’ dauntless escapades.
Gemma Brooke Allen is endearing as the big-eyed Beverly, who is caught between being the ‘good girl’ and her unwavering knack for adventures. Gemma is pretty convincing in her transformation from being a bullied kid to rooting for a new school mascot and getting called in the principal’s office for her rebellious ways.
One really wishes Julie Bowen had more to express as the working grandma Gail, who is hardened by the ways of life and only means business. All she talks about is of Beverly’s flu shots and the Y2K millennium bug, and allows her to have friends who are fully vaccinated and have good study scores. Gail and Beverly, though living under the same roof, have a glaring disconnect, something that the movie intends to make us uncomfortable with from the very beginning – Beverly has a million queries about her dead parents while Gail has mastered the art of not looking back.
It’s only in the final segments of the film that Gail has a heart-to-heart with Beverly, describing her parents as ‘beautiful idiots’. A beautiful moment indeed.
Directed by Valerie Weiss, Mixtape appeals to a young audience as well as to adult viewers. It is a ride through nostalgia for the true blue 90s kids with elements such as stereo cassette players, bubble-gums, bicycle rides in the evenings and more. The songs in Mixtape – Surrender by Cheap Trick, Teacher’s Pet by The Quick, Getting Nowhere Fast by Girls At Our Best, Linda Linda by the Blue Hearts, Better Things by The Kinks, I Got a Right by The Stooges – also transport the viewers back in time.
Mixtape, which will make you cry and ache, laugh and smile, wraps with the affirmation: “You might get things wrong but nothing’s wrong with you” and a closure for Beverly Moody, the one she’s been looking for in that cassette.
Director: Valerie Weiss
Cast: Gemma Brooke Allen, Julie Bowen, Nick Thune, Jackson Rathbone, Olga Petsa, Audrey Hsieh