Director: Mairtín de Barra
Released in the UK and Ireland on May 10th 2013
So I saw the title and I’m thinking, cool maybe it’s an art house film based on the life of a female contemporary of Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg, Carolyn Cassady maybe and her take on Jack’s life On the Road? Sadly not…great title though.
Beat Girl tells the story of Heather (Louise Dylan), for whom music is everything. She’s got bags of talent and is endeavouring to follow in her Mother’s footsteps by getting into Juilliard, the famous music school in New York and becoming a classical pianist.
Sadly her mother dies and she finds herself living with her estranged father (Michael Higgs) and his son and her step brother Mike (Percelle Ascott). It’s not long before there are arguments about which room her Mother’s piano can live and how late she is allowed to practice until.
At least she has her friends Amy (Amy Brangwyn) and Steve (Jonathan Holby) who are aspiring young fashion designers to look out for her. Her step brother Mike is an aspiring DJ who with his best friend have got themselves into a dodgy situation by owing the local heavy a serious wad of cash for some equipment he got them.
Meanwhile Heather has problems of her own when she discovers that she has not won the scholarship she needs to back up her audition for Juilliard. Thankfully for her fate is about to lend a hand. When Mike is nicked for shoplifting from a local record store she goes round to remonstrate with the owner only to find him to be the ever smiley Toby(Craig Daniel Adams) with whom she strikes up a friendship and eventually begins to go out with.
Toby runs a DJ agency and suggests Heather takes a course in how to become a DJ. Seeing this as a way to make money fast she suddenly finds herself torn between the strict rules of Classical Music and the freeform style of Dance Music and will eventually have to make a choice between them.
The film is part of a multi platform release that includes a book, a game, webisodes and there are plans to perhaps take it further if it proves a success at the box office.
Now, it’s a sweet coming of age story featuring some strong performances from the cast in particular Percelle Ascott & Michael Higgs. As the two leads Louise Dylan is a Kirsten Dunst-alike who looks like she’s been watching Clare Danes just a bit too much and Craig Daniel Adams smiles…a lot without really going on much of an emotional journey.
The producers are keen to point out that this film should be in no way compared to another coming of age film but with pianos instead. So I wont mention it by name except to say that it came out in 2001 and starred Julia Stiles. If you want to go even further back you could compare it to the 1984 release Breakdance the movie where Jazz Dance clashed with Break Dancing. I hope I’m allowed to mention that cause I rather enjoyed that one!
And here lies the problem…it’s been done before. It’s certainly not offensive it’s just not particularly original or groundbreaking. You can tick off the clichés as they come at you one by one. Strained relationship with parent that eventually is resolved…check, perky childhood friend with obligatory gay business partner who has trouble with men (surely gay men must be wracked off being portrayed like this?)…check, smiley leading man who she falls out with but eventually forgives…check, mad dash to get to the event she wants to be at instead of the one where she’s supposed to be…check and the gloriously cheesey ending…check. I could go on but you get the idea. It feels like the writers & producers sat down to watch every Richard Curtis movie before they started!
I’d have been able to forgive them a bit if it was a killer soundtrack but sadly it isn’t. It’s a hotch potch of electronic dance music that doesn’t accentuate the emotion but merely sits there throbbing away in the background before getting a bit louder every so often and do birds really chirp as much as that in London?
So, a great title, a nice tagline in ‘To find her passion, she had to create the perfect mix’, some half decent performances from some of the actors but not much else.
Now will you please excuse me whilst I carry on reading my book. It’s full of cool music, hip girls and doesn’t have a cheesey ending. In fact there’s not a piano or pair of decks in sight. Just a lonesome writer hunched over the keys trying to come up with something interesting to say. I know just how he feels.