This is the second time I’ve written a review of this 2016 Australian musical, the first being destroyed when coffee and my laptop turned out not to be the best of friends. Due to that accident a few partially written or yet to be posted reviews were lost and because my response to them was somewhat middling they’ll tragically be never seen again, but Emo The Musical, despite having one of the worst titles of any movie ever, is not one of them. Indeed it’s an absolute gem and so I’m writing out my thoughts about it once more, and even if I lost this version and the next ten I’d refuse to concede defeat as I’m so enamoured with it.
In some ways it’s a shame they chose that rather weak title, while it’s undoubtedly accurate it might be something which could put people off from watching the film, at least if they’re expecting a selection of songs that sound like they could have been written by Joy Division or Robert Smith. Because even though this is all about a young teenager who identifies as an emo the majority of the songs are a mixture of indie rock and musical theatre numbers, there are a couple of emo / goth type tracks when our hero’s band plays, and said songs are fun too, but they’re definitely the least interesting and thankfully only a minor aspect of the soundtrack.
The aforementioned emo is Ethan (Benson Jack Anthony), who was expelled from his last school for trying to kill himself, though said attempt wasn’t as serious as it sounds. Upon starting at his new school he’s desperate to join the school’s one emo band and take part in a big old fashioned Battle Of The Bands competition, but there’s a very charming, lovable twist as Trinity (Jordan Hare), one of the singers in a Christian rock band, fancies him, and though he tries to resist her charms he starts to fall for her. But will either of their band mates accept such a relationship? The answer probably won’t surprise you – but it’s “No, no of course they bloody won’t” just in cast you didn’t guess.
The script is beautifully self-aware and the film rarely takes itself that seriously, and even though it tackles a number of important themes it does so with a deft, light touch which will make you rather enamoured with it. So as well as touching upon religion it also casts it’s eye over sexuality and the nature of depression, with the way that the school is sponsored by a pharmaceutical company allowing for some very snarky commentary about the manner mental illness is often all too frustratingly dealt with in a thoughtless fashion, and the dialogue is filled with many an amusing attack on this.
However even better than the script are the many songs which are packed with gloriously funny lyrics, the stand out being “Would Jesus” where Trinity wonders whether or not Jesus would have been an emo himself – and the answer’s clearly yes, as she believes “No girl would have dated him, cause who wants their boyfriend crucified at the formal?”. There’s a number of very sweet yet still amusing romantic tracks too as the duo try to come to terms with their unwanted feelings towards each other, with Ethan singing at one point “Sex sounds suspiciously like exercise, and you know I’m not into that” in the beautifully affecting “Safe With Me”, while the film also makes some great digs at the nature of organised religion in “Give Up” as in it the Christian band attempts to attract teenagers filled with self doubt. All are fantastic within the context of the film but also work just as effectively out of it too, and it’s a soundtrack I’ve found myself listening to a huge amount since falling for this incredibly charming film.
The young cast (which includes a young Geraldine Viswanathan, who did such sterling work in Miracle Workers earlier this year) pull off their roles with aplomb, their vocals are uniformly stunning, and the few adults present are on top form too. It’s a film which has instantly become a favourite of mine as it’s filled with an impressive selection of very funny moments and scenes but which also manages to be thoughtful and inspiring as well, while the ending is the best example of a “feel good finale” that I’ve seen in years, and will have you punching the air time so many times that by the end of the credits your arms will be exhausted.