"Emo: The Musical" (2016) - Movie Review
The World Series has concluded and came to a heartbreaking end for my Dodgers, but now I can get back to watching and reviewing films again! Unless you are Australian or follow me on Twitter, I can almost guarantee you have never heard of this film before. I feel deep down into the Amazon Video rabbit hole and discovered this well-hidden gem that I rented for $3. When I first discovered Emo: The Musical I did some research in regards to the plot and discovered that it was based on a 16-minute short by the same director, Neil Triffett, that is currently available here on YouTube. Go check it out now!
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of Emo: The Musical, let me go ahead and share the synopsis with you: "When Ethan, an Emo kid who hates almost everything, falls in love with Trinity, a good Christian girl with a passion for life and her Lord Jesus Christ, will they be able to live happily ever after?". Combine that plot with the fact that this is a rock musical then, well, you have tailor-made a film that is perfect for me. I felt some serious Sing Street vibes while watching Emo. The music is great, and I will get to that in a bit, but what impressed me even more were the characters. They are so well-written, developed, and easily relatable. This film tackles almost every high school stereotype; everyone will find at least one character in this film that will make them say "Oh hey, that was me in high school." Everyone's identity, or rather "label", gets shaken in this film as it turns into a journey of discovering who all of these students really are and it concludes in one of the most satisfying endings I have seen to a film in recent memory.
I cannot write this review without mentioning the performance of Benson Jack Anthony as our main character, Ethan. Ethan is an Emo student whom is constantly moving schools because of his behavior and even faked a suicide attempt at a previous school before ending up at the school at which this film takes place. Anthony puts so much emotion into his performance as an Emo student who is supposed to be emotionless. His remarkable chemistry with Jordan Hare, the young woman who portrays Trinity, carries the film emotionally all the way to the ending. The supporting cast members all go a really good job here as well. Their performances, combined with a well-written screenplay, had me, as a viewer, constantly changing my mind about which characters I do and do not like. I never had an Emo appearance in my teen years, but you can bet I listened to a lot of stereotypically Emo music almost 24/7. Now, as a Christian who still listens to that music quite often, I was able to put aside my beliefs for 95 minutes in order to enjoy this musical that, in my opinion, does a good job of satirizing and offending many different high school student stereotypes.
Now, this is a musical, so it would be idiotic of me to leave the music out of this review. This film's soundtrack, which I have been listening to non-stop on Spotify, has 20 tracks that range from guitar riffs to love songs to angsty, punk-rock ballads and more. Some of my personal favorite tracks include "Give Up", "Stupid Band", "Safe With Me", "We're All Gonna Die", "Would Jesus?", "Come to Church", and "Emo Finale", which is a mashup of a couple different songs from earlier in the musical. These ones are my personal favorites as they stood out to me for different reasons such as hilarious lyrics, great vocal performances, and relatability. The other songs are fun and catchy as well, but did not stick with me or wow me like the aforementioned titles. My biggest issue - and really my only issue - with the film is that some of the actors and actresses are far better singers than others which lowers the quality of a couple songs. I felt Jordan Hare's voice paled in comparison to her co-lead Benson Jack Anthony, but at other times she did impress me and the soundtrack is really good nonetheless.
Jon Prasida, shown above in the brown blazer, plays Isaac. Isaac is the leader of Hope Group, the Evangelistic Christian band that rivals Bradley and Ethan's Emo band, Worst Day Ever. I feel comfortable enough in labeling Isaac as the film's main antagonist and most hypocritical character. Prasida's character is extremely smart, offensive, conniving, and a good portrayal of society's view of modern-day hypocritical Christians. He tries to send Peter, his gay bandmate, to electro-shock therapy and impregnates his Sri Lankan bandmate, Jamali, whom he constantly refers to as Indian. He is the personification of everything hypocritical in today's churches. Thankfully, as a Christian, I can say that he does not accurately represent the majority of today's Christian youth.
The film concludes with a high-energy, thrilling band contest that, as i mentioned earlier, provided me with one of the most satisfying film endings I have seen in recent memory. Ladies and gentlemen, Emo: The Musical is full of hilarious lyrics and dialogue, great music, emotional depth, well-written characters, a clever screenplay, and really good performances from some young actors and actresses that may be on the rise soon, especially in Australian cinema. As of now, Emo: The Musical has cracked my top 10 list - a list that currently includes 130 films - for films with an American release date in 2017. It premiered in 2016 at the Melbourne International Film Festival, but was recently released on VOD digital platforms here in the United States. Find it somewhere online legally, pay a few bucks to rent it so Neil Triffett can continue to make great films like this, and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did.
FINAL SCORE: 4.5/5 (Great)
*All images belong to Neil Triffett and Matthewswood Productions.