The new Netflix tween drama, ‘Mixtape,’ directed by Valerie Weiss, is a trip down the 90s lane. The film is set during the year 1999, and the fear of the Y2K bug that troubled the world at large is constantly discussed in the background. It revolves around the middle-school student Beverly Moody, who lives with her grandmother, Gail. The film starts with Beverly watching the untimely fireworks from the window of her room and speaks to the framed picture of her parents, saying how she wished she knew more about them than just the shared love for fireworks. The scene establishes the absence of her parents with the framed picture of the two beside her bed and her longing to learn more about them.
The grandmother, Gail, is a USPS mail carrier and is fearful of the Y2K that could affect the banking interest, a fear that took by storm most US households. Beverly, unaware of the implication of what troubled her grandmother, was more interested in knowing details about her parents, whom she lost at a car wreck when she was just two years old. The story starts unraveling when she comes across a mixtape made by her parents and what she believed could answer all her questions that the grandmother refused to discuss.
The mixtape as the key element of the film is an obvious going by the title itself, but at the same time, it brings back memories from the late 80s and 90s when making a mixtape and professing love was a common phenomenon. While playing the mixtape in her Walkman, the cassette gives up, forcing her to search for help from the neighboring vinyl and CD record store. The audience is introduced to a typical character named, Anti, who gradually becomes a crucial part of her journey to know her parents. Anti teaches Beverly that the key to understanding a mixtape is listening to the songs in the order the messenger intended the listener to listen to, as in the sequence lies the message.
The Beverly character is unpopular at school and is made fun of by the popular kids in class. She later shared a deep friendship with her Taiwanese neighbor, Ellen, and a punk goth classmate, Nicky, all of whom she interacted with in search of help to find the songs listed at the back of the mixtape, Love Riot. The film unfolds with re-discovering each song and Beverly’s growing admiration for her teen parents. The grandmother, by the end of the film, gives Beverly the song that her parents lovingly wrote for her, bringing together all the characters by the end of this feel-good film. The film ends with the welcoming of the year 2000 and Beverly asking Gail if this was the end of the world, and her grandmother responded by saying that it was just the beginning.
The film is an excellent place to revive the 90s nostalgia, from the mixtape itself to the vinyl, CD record store. The anxious state of the common people is well traced owing to the time the film is situated in. The soundtrack is a big nod to the favorites from the 80s to the 90s, with songs like “I Got a Right” by Iggy & The Stooges to “I Love you always forever” by Donna Lewis. The film is brought to life by excellent performances from Gemma Brooke Allen, who plays the role of Beverly Moody, Julie Bowel as Gail, the grandmother, and Nick Thune as Anti. The characters are sketched in the most typical fashion, with the protagonist as the unpopular tween, the best friends who are primarily outcasts, and the humorous adult friend.
The character Anti is fun to watch, with sarcastic dialogues thrown in between. Also, the name Anti stems from the idea of how anti he is of everything in general. This coming-of-age feel-good Netflix release is heartwarming to watch with an obvious plot. The narrative is tied together with the help of songs, and each song carries the story further towards the ending, which is an interesting way to narrate a story even though it is not a first.
There is nothing cinematically exceptional about this tween drama, and it feels like another Netflix product. The cast diversity is subtle with some humorous touch even, especially when hinting at the usual umbrella term ‘Asian’ in the scene where Beverly hoped Ellen could decode the Japanese lyrics of a song even though she was Taiwanese. ‘Mixtape’ is a film you can watch after a tiring day at work when you wish and hope to go back to your happy 90s days when the world was not yet tech-savvy. A film you can indulge in knowing there is a happy ending and there are better days.
Mixtape is a 2021 Musical Dramedy film directed by Valerie Weiss. It is streaming on Netflix.