Director: Valerie Weiss
Writer: Stacey Menear
Starring: Gemma Brooke Allen, Julie Bowen, Nick Thune, Jackson Rathbone, Olga Pesta, Audrey Hsieh, and Diego Mercado
Stacey Menear’s script for Mixtape has been floating around for over decade, first being announced way back in 2012 as going into production with Tom Vaughan directing. Mixtape has now been released on Netflix with Valerie Weiss in the director’s chair. It’s a really charming and moving story about loss and friendship and finds a perfect home on Netflix, where hopefully it will be seen by as many people as possible.
It’s 1999 and the end of the millennium is near, with Y2K worrying people. Beverly Moody (Gemma Brooke Allen) is living with her grandmother, Gail (Julie Bowen), after her parents died in a car crash. She doesn’t really have any connection with them, being too young to remember them clearly and her grandmother doesn’t like to talk about it. While in the basement, Beverly accidentally knocks over a box and finds a mix tape that her parents created. She puts it into a Walkman and presses play, thinking it may contain a message from her parents. Sadly, the tape is chewed up, but the track list is still on the case so Beverly sets out to recreate the mix, one song at a time.
Mixtape is a sweet and charming story. Beverley goes to the local record store to ask the owner to record songs onto a tape for her, so she can re-create the message that she believes her mother made for her. Along the way she makes friends with the other outcasts in school, Ellen (Audrey Hsieh) and Nicky (Olga Pesta), who help her find the songs. It’s the early days of the Internet, so they are reliant on records, CDs and Napster to complete their quest. A couple of the songs on the track list don’t have names, just descriptions, but Beverley’s mother’s diary helps them with this.
The main trio are great. All three give great performances and are completely believable. Beverley is a relatable character, who’s struggling with grieving for her parents, while also trying to find her way in life. It’s a journey of self-discovery for her. Gemma Brooke Allen is really good in the leading tole, she carries the whole film with the emotional weight on her shoulders. There’s one moment where she asks her grandmother if her mother would have even liked her? It’s a poignant moment that resonates throughout her quest.
The songs, mostly 80s punk and rock, are great. It’s a fitting soundtrack from the time that really tells you everything you need to know about Beverley’s parents, while at the same time are just great songs. It gives the story and energetic feel as almost everything is set to the beat of classic music.
The story does feel a little contrived at points. Beverley and Ellen can’t find a specific song by The Quick on Napster and the local record store doesn’t hold it, since only 1000 vinyl copies were pressed, but then they bump into Nicky at school, who’s wearing a t-shirt from the band and happens to have one of the elusive records at her house. They find a picture of a musician that Beverley’s mother knew, and he happens to be playing a show in a local club a couple of nights later. There aren’t really any obstacles along their quest, but it’s not a big problem because the central hook of the film is so strong that it’ll have you engaged anyway.
Mixtape is sentimental, charming and at points really emotional. It’s a brilliant coming-of-age story that feels really fresh. The idea of finding out about a lost loved one through a series of songs they handpicked is a really sweet idea that the film takes and carries perfectly. It’s a family friendly film that deserves the widest audience possible.
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