Synopsis: When a young girl accidentally destroys the mixtape that belonged to her mother, she sets out to track down each of the obscure songs on the cassette.
Stars: Gemma Brooke Allen, Julie Bowen, Nick Thune, Audrey Hsieh, Olga Petsa, Jackson Rathbone, Diego Mercado, Anthony Timpano, Kiefer O’Reilly, Lucas Yao
Director: Valerie Weiss
Running Length: 93 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Well darn, here we are in the second week of December and it’s at this point that a lot of smaller movies are going to slip through your fingers. There’s a silver lining to it, though, because usually this means you’ll find these movies after the first of the year, call them a hidden gem, and forget that I told you about them months earlier. Don’t worry, I won’t be mad at you…too much. Here’s one such film that I’ll tell you about now, but you may not make time for right away. I think you should give it a try now because it’s better and far more adult and meaningful than it’s wacky marketing make it out to be. Whatever the case, be sure to scribble down Mixtape so you don’t forget entirely.
Based on an original story by Stacey Menear and directed by Valerie Weiss, the film is set during a time I know quite well…the final days of the 20th century when we all felt as if the world was either going to end or some horrible disaster would occur. While all the adults were freaking out, most of the youth were going about their daily business, like Beverly Moody (Gemma Brooke Allen) who just wants to survive the perils of Middle School.
Living with her mail carrier grandmother (Julie Bowen, Life of the Party) ever since her parents were killed in a car crash when she was barely a toddler, Beverly never knew anything about her parents and her grandmother isn’t that willing to talk about them, especially her daughter with whom it appears she had a fraught relationship with and unresolved issues. Exploring a basement full of junk, Beverly finds an old cassette tape of music and promptly ruins it, but not the paper insert listing all the songs. At a local vintage music store run by Anti (Nick Thune, The Right One) and with the help of several new friends she picks up along the way, Beverly begins to gather the songs passed between her parents and gains some insight into who they were at the same time.
At its barest bones, Mixtape is an adolescent dramedy focusing on a girls need to find out more about her parents and having to work around a grandmother that still hasn’t come to terms with the loss. Digging deeper, there’s a true maturity to the screenplay from Menear and the performances Weiss gets out of her young actors that elevates Mixtape to a higher level than what it initially appears to be. There is a lot of loss to be dealt with here, not just between two generations of mother and daughter but of communication between grandmother and granddaughter. The two only have each other to lean on and they get along wonderfully…but this one huge elephant in the room only grows bigger and has begun to take up more space than they have to offer.
I’ve searched for a better word but perky is the best way I can describe Allen in the lead…it just comes to mind when I think of her animated performance and the way she can switch from the humorous to the hurt. She plays well off of her older co-stars and just as nicely with the other young actresses playing her unexpected partners in crime who also do some growing up through helping Beverly. Thune is also notable, mostly for not making his older guy hanging out with younger girls (not by choice, they kind of force their way into his store) come off so non-creepy.
Honestly, I went into Mixtape thinking it would be a lot like Moxie, the Amy Poehler-directed girl power picture from earlier in 2021 but I wound up liking this one far more than that. It’s got a sweeter heart and a deeper story to tell. When you do make your way back to Mixtape and press play, remember who told you about it first and, like most of the “sad” mixtapes were signed, think of me always!
[…] his site, Botten reviewed “West Side Story,” “Mixtape,” “Single All the Way,” “Silent Night,” “Wolf,” […]