Beat Girl Movie Review – You Can’t Have it All
There’s a very interesting story behind Beat Girl and its journey to the screen (cinema in the UK, Ireland and Portugal, video on demand in the US) is a very encouraging one. I point this out first not just because I am intrigued by the multi-platform beginnings of the story, but because I’m not entirely convinced the film incarnation of Heather’s journey stands alone in the way it deserves to. It feels like part of a bigger whole and is marred by the absence of that further knowledge in most of its potential audience.
The movie follows Heather, a talented pianist who, after the death of her mother, moves in with her father and half-brother while seeking a place at prestigious performing arts school, Julliard. In London, a whole new world of music seeps into Heather’s universe, and she’s unexpectedly taken in by her side job as a DJ. She meets fellow electronic dance music enthusiast Toby, which only furthers her interest, and she must decide whether she wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps or forge her own path.
Now a lot of people will hear ‘Julliard’ and immediately think Save the Last Dance, especially given the main character’s split between modern and traditional styles of her art form. I’ll clear things up now and say that Beat Girl bears little similarity in practice, and actually benefits from those comparisons in that it can deliver surprise twists on the old formula. Things aren’t simple for Heather since, in addition to her mother having died, she is also living in her considerable shadow as the darling of the performing arts world. Being slightly older, the story of Beat Girl is more appealing as a true coming of age tale.
It’s also helpful that lead actress Louise Dylan is appealing in the role, striking the right balance between self-confident and troubled, but romantic lead Craig Daniel Adams struggles to be quite as believable as DJ mentor Toby. The real stand-outs for me were supporting players Amy Brangwyn and Jonathan Holby as Heather’s friends and aspiring fashion designers, whose parallel journey to becoming big shots in their own dream world often proving more compelling than the story we were supposed to be following. There’s also a subplot involving younger brother Mike (Percelle Ascott) in trouble with a loan shark which never really gels.
The main problem with Beat Girl is that we drop into Heather’s life just as she’s wavering on her life-long dreams of being a pianist, and it’s never really explained why or when she began to love it. If it was just an attempt to please her mother then there would be no question as to which way she should go, and things are only more confusing when you factor in the issue of money. Heather initially enters the DJ world to make quick cash for a move to Julliard when all scholarships fall through, and her love of it seems to us, like many of the characters around her, like a phase.
The film even toys with exploring the financial woes of recent graduates living in the big city, but never really delves into what could have been driving force in the story. Giving up the dream you’ve worked hard for just so you can freelance as a club DJ doesn’t seem like a message young people would be eager to hear in such uncertain times and it’s much easier to understand and cheer for the realized dreams of best friends Amy and Steve. “To find her passion, she had to create the perfect mix” reads the tagline for the film, but the final memo delivered to its audience is that you can’t do it all – and something huge has to be sacrificed whatever way you go.
A generic dance movie in structure and stilted aspirations if not in subject matter, Beat Girl is disappointing more for the fact that its multiplatform existence promised more than the film itself delivers. Given that a game, a web series and a novel already exist for the characters seen here, the lack of depth in Heather’s story is all the more surprising, and its daring to be different behind the scenes sadly doesn’t translate to the movie itself.
Please find the Beat Girl release schedule below:
May 10th – 1pm and 3:30pm – Prince Charles Cinema, 6 Leicester Square, Chinatown, London, WC2H 7BX
0207 494 3654 http://www.princecharlescinema.com
May 13th to 16th – 3pm – Community Cinema, 13 Crosby Road North, Waterloo, Crosby, Liverpool, L22 0LD
0151 474 4076 http://www.plazacinema.org.uk
May 13th to 16th – 3pm – Premiere Cinema, The Mercury Mall, Liverty 2 Mercury Gardens, Romford, Essex, RM1 3EE
01708 740700 http://www.premierecinemas.co.uk
May 13th to 16th – 12:55pm – Carlton Cinema, 29 Mildreds Road, Westgate-On-Sea, CT8 8RE
01843 834390 http://www.westgatecinema.co.uk
May 13th to 16th – 3:30pm – Island Cinema, South Promenade, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, FY8 1LY
01253 725331 http://www.theislandcinema.com
May 13th to 16th – 4pm and 3:15pm – Plaza Cinema, 31 Trinity Street, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1TT
01305 262488 http://plazadorchester.com
May 10th – 17th – 2pm and 4:15pm – IMC Dun Laoghaire, Lower Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co.Dublin
01 230 1367 http://www.imccinemas.ie
Video on Demand
UK: 10th May – Virgin, 4od, itunes, Talk Talk, EE and FilmFlex
USA: 29th May – Hulu