The feature film adaptation of Matthew Quick‘s “Sorta Like a Rockstar” book is streaming today on Netflix. Quick, along with the movie director Brett Haley (All the Bright Places), Marc Basch (Hearts Beat Loud) and Ol Parker (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Now Is Good) penned the screenplay. The movie stars Auli’i Cravalho (Rise, Moana), Justina Machado (One Day at a Time, Harley Quinn), Fred Armisen (Big Mouth), Carol Burnett (Toy Story 4), Judy Reyes (Succession, The Circle), Taylor Richardson (Rise), Rhenzy Feliz (Runaways), Gerald Isaac Waters (Angie Tribeca), Anthony Jacques (Atypical), C.S. Lee (Dexter).
Premise: An optimistic high schooler, Amber Appleton, with musical aspirations must learn to accept help from her friends to overcome her personal hardships and fulfill her dreams.
Review: The movie starts off so cheerful and optimistic, presenting Amber in the best light as someone who helps, whose resourceful, and not afraid to hustle. So when the harder, less cheery stuff comes in it packs a punch. It doesn’t mean the movie gets depressing, there’s a hopeful side that remains, it’s almost, if not completely carried by Cravalho. Her Amber is subtle in her pain, she holds onto the bright side of things so tight, like a mask to hide behind, that it becomes denial at times instead of a genuine optimistic disposition, which she has.
The movie carries a message of optimism and perseverance. It’s about not hiding your pain and certainly not being ashamed of it. It’s also about not being afraid of asking for help. In that respect the movie hits its mark, however it a little too safe and too soft. Too much is implied and not enough is seen. Leaning so much on subtlety, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks as much as they have to here keeps them at arms length, not fully connecting with Amber. There’s just enough to empathize but not enough to be right there with Amber. We are asked to take the role of outsider, observer, as if Amber is also hiding from the audience.
All Together Now is a heart-wrenching story that is not played up for tears. The pain, the hope and everything in between are just there, but not enough is done to invite you in. The movie is still a tearjerker though.