WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
An optimistic, talented teen clings to a huge secret: She's homeless and living on a bus. When tragedy strikes, can she learn to accept a helping hand?
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
I was pleasantly surprised by Netflix's latest teen movie, All Together Now. The story follows a young girl, who is torn between pursuing her dream of studying at Carnegie Mellon and finding a new home for her and her mother. The trailer sets you up for a fun, feel-good, teen dramedy, but offers viewers so much more than just that.
Based on Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick's novel Sorta Like a Rockstar, Auli'i Cravalho leads as the optimistic Amber Appleton. Of course, life isn't easy for Amber.
"Life is so much more complicated than you think, baby," her mom reminds her, and as the plot progresses, Amber slowly starts to lose hope in the once bright future she dreamed of.
The focus on homelessness in the film was far less grim and sanitised in this polite Netflix film. Though her mother struggles with alcoholism, you never quite see it, and Amber is far too cheerful and helpful for someone living through tragedy after tragedy.
All things considered though, Auli'i Cravalho still delivers a strong performance as she makes her live-action film debut, taking on a more serious role. You would've seen her in The Little Mermaid Live! and remember her as the voice of Moana. But she brings a different, more mature sound to All Together Now with the beautiful song Feels Like Home performed in the film. I've had it on repeat since watching the movie over the weekend!
The film also stars the always hilarious Carol Burnett, Justina Machado, Judy Reyes and Fred Armisen, as well as Rhenzy Feliz, Anthony Jacques, Taylor Richardson and Gerald Isaac Waters as Amber's close-knit group of friends, making for a diverse and strong supporting cast – something very few teen movies get right.
I quite appreciated how the arts was something celebrated, and diversity and differences embraced. All the tired, stereotypical teen movie tropes – the mean girls, the bullies – were all done away with, which ultimately made for a more relatable teen movie for a change, and one that is rooted in something so much deeper – and needed: hope.
So, while one can argue that All Together Now doesn't quite hit the mark in dealing with more serious issues, perhaps it's not gritty enough, it's still a somewhat successful teen movie to stream right now.
A cute love interest and school talent show aside, Amber's hope for a better future, and the message that we don't always have to go it alone, is at the heart of this story – and with all the scrappy movies on Netflix right now, a far better takeaway for teens, if you ask me.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: