Netflix film “Mixtape”, which was released early in this month, is a predictable but enjoyable coming-of-age drama accompanied with a number of fairly good songs to listen. Right from the beginning, you will know what you will get, but the movie mostly works thanks to its lightweight spirit as well as the solid efforts from its main cast members, and you will probably go along with that without much complaint.
Set in Spokane, Washington during the last months of 1999, the movie mainly revolves around Beverly Moody (Gemma Brooke Allen), a 12-year-old girl who has lived with her grandmother Gail (Julie Bowen) since her parents’ death. Just like Gail, Beverly’s mother happened to give birth to her daughter even before she became 17, but she and her young husband died due to an unfortunate car accident when Beverly was only 2 years old, and Gail has tried her best in raising her granddaughter alone during next 10 years.
As Gail is usually occupied with making ends meet and is often not so willing to talk about her deceased daughter, Beverly has naturally been curious about who her mother was, and then she happens to discover something while rummaging those old stuffs belonging to her mother. It is a cassette tape which contains a number of different songs, and Beverly is certainly curious about the contents of this ‘mixtape’, but, alas, it is subsequently damaged when she tries to play it with her Walkman (If you do not know what the hell this is, please try Google for getting some information about it).
At least, the case of the mixtape also has the list of the songs in the mixtape. Beverly is determined to find and the listen to these songs, but she has never heard of any of them, so she goes to an old record/CD shop run by a dude who simply calls himself “Anti” (Nick Thune). Although he is initially not so willing to help Beverly as your average jaded dude, Anti eventually agrees to help her a bit, and Beverly is certainly excited to experience some small parts of her mother’s life via several first songs in the list.
In addition, her quest for finding the rest of the songs in the mixtape also leads her to befriending two different schoolmates who instantly become her best friends. Although she cannot translate the Japanese lyrics of a certain song by the Blue Hearts for an understandable reason, Ellen (Audrey Hsieh) gladly provides some extra help to Beverly via her online search, and some of you may become a little nostalgic when Ellen does a bit of web browsing at one point (Have you ever heard of Napster, by the way?). In case of Nicky (Olga Pesta), this sullen feisty girl instantly recognizes the lyrics of a song of the Kinks when Beverly quotes it in their class, and she is surely glad to join Beverly’s quest as an aficionado of rock music.
As moving from one predictable narrative point to another as expected, Stacey Menear’s screenplay diligently develops its story and characters with enough spirit and personality. While our three girls are distinctively colorful in each own way, the movie also pays some attention to several other characters around them, and there is a little poignant scene where Gail comes to have more understanding on how much her granddaughter hopes to get to know about her lost daughter, whom she misses everyday more than she admits on the surface.
During the last act, the mood becomes a little more serious and melodramatic when Beverly gets her heart broken by a rather callous comment from one rock musician who once worked with her mother, but the movie does not lose any of its positive spirit at all, and that is the main reason why the finale is heartwarming even though we already saw it coming. In addition, the movie provides some extra humor from how many people were afraid of the possible Y2K crisis at that time (Again, please try Google for learning more about it), and that also surely brought me some little laughs to say the least.
Director Valerie Weiss draws the likeable performances from her main cast members, who are all funny and engaging in their respective parts. As the center of the film, young actor Gemma Brooke Allen effortlessly slides along her character’s dramatic arc in the story, and we are accordingly amused and touched by how much her character is matured around the end of the story. As Beverly’s two very different friends, Olga Pesta and Audrey Hsieh play their characters well with considerable life and personality, and Julie Bowen and Nick Thune also have each own moment to shine as two substantial adult supporting characters in the story.
On the whole, “Mixtape” did not surprise me much, but it engaged me enough during viewing, and I came to reminisce a bit about when I attempted to make my own mixtapes during my adolescent period in the late 1990s. I was actually more interested in many film composers such as John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith instead of those rock musicians mentioned in the film (I am still a fan of many film composers who has hundreds of movie score album CDs, by the way), but I used some of their works to express myself to some of my schoolmates, though that was not that successful as far as I can remember. To be frank with you, now I wish I had kept those mixtapes of mine, which would surely tell me as well as others much about who I was during that time when I was young and wild.