And welcome to my comeback no.3 at this point. This is Five Feet Apart!
IMDb summary: A pair of teenagers with cystic fibrosis meet in a hospital and fall in love.
- Five Feet Apart was written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis and directed by Justin Baldoni (the actor from Jane the Virgin). The film follows in the vein of such movies as The Fault in Our Stars (probably one of the most famous pictures of the genre), but also Midnight Sun and Everything, Everything (or A Walk to Remember if you want to go more old-school). The aforementioned films as well as countless unnamed others all tend to be cringe-y in some capacity. They also sometimes are very sincere and sweet. This one, to my surprise, leaned more towards the second option.
- Instead of cancer (the usual illness of YA romances), this time the main characters suffered from cystic fibrosis. I am no medical professional, thus, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information portrayed on screen. Nevertheless, I felt like I did learn something about the disease. The response from the cystic fibrosis community towards this movie has been mixed like the response in general. I have to admit, I cannot understand those arguing that the film idealizes illness: I have a hard time seeing how a portrayal is automatically an idealization or promotion. Isn’t it up the viewer to critically engage with a story?
- On the romance side, the film was both cute and cliched. It undeniably appeals to its target demographic by walking the line between the two. The ending was also both uplifting and heartbreaking.
- Directing wise, the script was handled well. The cinematography was clear and the editing – cohesive and concise. I also enjoyed how the production design of hospital rooms was used to enhance and develop the characters. My one gripe with the film was its length – it could have been a tad bit shorter.
- The appeal to the demographic also very much depended on the cast of the film. Yup, I’m talking about Cole Sprouse – he was really good in the role and fit the requirements of that particular character perfectly. However, the lead of the film – Haley Lu Richardson – was the main reason why the film felt sincere. You might remember her from Split as one of the cheerleaders James McAvoy tortured. Moises Arias, who I still remember from his Hannah Montana days, was also good in the supporting role.
In short, Five Feet Apart was a surprise of a movie. A quality YA offering rather than a cringe-fest.
Trailer: Five Feet Apart trailer
Welcome to a review of another YA movie. This time around, it’s Midnight Sun.
IMDb summary: A 17-year-old girl suffers from a condition that prevents her from being out in the sunlight.
- Midnight Sun was written by Eric Kirsten and directed by Scott Speer (whose previous teen dramedy – Status Update – came out only around a month ago). It’s actually a remake of a Japanese film Song to the Sun. Yes, foreign YA movies are joining foreign actioners and thrillers as the second genre that Hollywood loves to reboot. In general, I have noticed that my enjoyment of teen/YA pictures depends as much on their quality as on my personal psychological state when watching them. My state was neutral today, so the movie seemed okay too. I definitely rolled my eyes as many times as I genuinely smiled.
- Thematically, this movie was similar to Everything Everything in that both of them had a sick girl in the lead. However, while that movie had a twist that led to a happy ending, Midnight Sun had a ballsier ending closer to that of Me Before You. I swear I watch too many movies cause my reviews are literally just me commenting on movies using other films. Anyways, there were a lot of things to love in the script of this film. The portrayal of teenage life was accurate, while the girl’s awkwardness when talking to her crush – incredibly relatable. It was also awesome to see such an open and loving father-daughter relationship on screen. The ultimate message to live life was either cheesy, inspirational or both.
- My two main dislikes in the writing were the fact that the girl’s choice not to tell her boyfriend that she was sick seemed like a cheap trick to build conflict rather than a profound and important decision. Similarly, on the character development front, the movie didn’t practice what it preached. The film’s message was that people shouldn’t be defined by one thing, like a sickness or a sport. However, the movie kinda went against that message because it didn’t give its characters much more than just that one defining feature. The main girl got a dead mom and a passion for music so that’s something, but the guy was just a swimmer. Basically, one more rewrite of the script to flesh out these details might have been beneficial.
- Bella Thorne played the lead girl in the film and did a good job. I found her dramatic performance quite believable. She also did a good job with the signing even though I don’t think that her voice is that good. Charlie’s Song was a really a lovely pop track. Rob Riggle was also really great as the father. He had one excellent speech that he nailed.
- Patrick Schwarzenegger, the son of Arnold Schwarzenegger played the romantic lead and was also fine. The fact that his character was a swimmer made the movie 10 times more enjoyable for me, as a someone who hasn’t left the pool since she was 7 (that’s 14 years in the water). Though, I did chuckle seeing him swimming in those couple of scenes. Not only wouldn’t he get into Berkeley with that, I don’t think a Division III school would even accept him. But, I guess, that’s just a personal gripe – the same one that, for example, actual doctors have when watching the cinematic versions of medical procedures.
In short, Midnight Sun was a perfectly fine YA drama. I have been watching quite a few of those lately and this one was certainly not the worst.
Trailer: Midnight Sun trailer
Welcome to a review of a movie you haven’t heard of. This is Status Update – a clear example of what the critics (or angry online commentators) mean when they describe something as ‘millennial’.
IMDb summary: Ross Lynch stars as Kyle Moore, a teenager who after being uprooted by his parents’ separation and unable to fit into his new hometown, stumbles upon a magical app that causes his social media updates to come true.
- Status Update was written Jason Filardi (he wrote 17 Again) and directed by a music video director Scott Speer (who also did the last two Step Up movies and the upcoming Midnight Sun). I knew (and didn’t mind) the previous works of the duo, so I’ve had certain expectations about this film beforehand. And… it was exactly what I thought it’d be – a typical teen dramedy with cringe-y and cool moments in an equal measure.
- Status Update tried being super contemporary by focusing on the impact of social media (Nerve did that more than a year ago too) and the fictional app the Universe. While the said app was really nonsensical (magic and technology rarely work together), it did have a smart thematical concept. At its core, the Universe was all about wishful thinking or imagining the best version of one’s life. And while that isn’t a healthy practice, it is also one that all people have partaken in at least once in their life. I know that I have certainly imagined quite a few ‘what if’ versions of my own life. Relating to that, I also appreciated the fact that the movie asked the question ‘who is the real you?’. Is it your social media-self or your real-world self? In the past, I had a definite answer to this question, but now, the answer is becoming harder and harder to find.
- While Status Update did some new things, it also heavily relied on the good old teen movie cliches. It had some really cringe-y and on-the-nose dialogue; a lot of jokes that didn’t land; and some walking caricatures for its characters (that phone guy was so annoying). It also attempted to present a diverse high school but really fell flat in its representation of a gay student (hopefully, Love, Simon fixes the trend of awful or non-existent LGBTQ+ representation).
- From the directing point of view, Status Update was fine. It was relatively short and the pacing was okay. It was also more musical-esque than I expected (thus, it kinda reminded me of High School Musical, which is not a bad thing to resemble, in my book). It also did look like a TV movie that could have aired on Disney Channel/Nickelodeon/Freeform/The CW. Lastly, more as a side note, I really do wonder whether anybody will remember contemporary teen movies fondly in about 30 years time, similarly to how now people feel nostalgic towards the teen films from the 1980s, like the whole filmography of John Hughes.
- Status Update’s cast consisted of mostly Disney Channel alumni: Ross Lynch (of Austin & Ally and Teen Beach movies) and Olivia Holt (of Kickin’ It, Girl vs. Monster, and I Didn’t Do It) played the leads. Although I have been a fan of the Disney Channel in the past, I haven’t really been keeping up with it lately (except Descendants) thus, I didn’t know any of the actors. I feel like they are from a later generation of Disney TV (not the generation of HSM, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, or Suite Life). The only actor I knew was Greg Sulkin who has been playing this type of a role for years now: he should really move on. Though, typecasting is a hard thing to escape from. Pitch Perfect’s John Michael Higgins also had a role in the movie, not too dissimilar from the one in the acapella trilogy.
In short, Status Update made me roll my eyes as much as it made me smile. I don’t think it’s necessarily a cinema admission worthy movie but it’s certainly a great Netflix/background for chores film.
Trailer: Status Update trailer