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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

CineHawk: “Mixtape”

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GRAPHIC: GABRIELLA GUZZARDO ’23/THE HAWK

Written by Stacey Menear and directed by Valerie Weiss, “Mixtape” tells the story of a young girl discovering a mixtape that belonged to her late parents and her journey to decipher all of the songs that were recorded on it. The film stars Gemma Brooke Allen, Nick Thune, Julie Bowen, Audrey Hsieh, and Olga Petsa. It is currently available to stream on Netflix. 

“Mixtape” begins in Spokane, Washington in the final days of the 20th century. Anxiety over the fabled Y2K, or Year 2000 problem, is at an all-time high, especially for Beverly Moody, played by Allen, a lonely middle schooler who lives with her grandmother Gail, played by Bowen. Since her parents died in a car accident when she was a baby, Beverly had tried to learn more about them. The subject is too painful for Gail, who tells her granddaughter the bare minimum. 

This changes when Beverly stumbles across the mixtape her parents made before their untimely deaths. Though it ends up severely damaged by a defective Walkman, she decides to track down each of the songs by name with the help of a sardonic record store owner called Anti, played by Thune. As she continues on her quest, she befriends her new neighbor Ellen, played by Hsieh, and the school bad girl, Nicky, played by Pesta.

Being a late 90s period piece, Menear’s screenplay had a tough balancing act: crafting a believable and authentic representation of that decade while telling a timeless tale. The film more than succeeds, bringing the end of 1999 alive in an organic way that never feels tacked on or forced. The various references to the Y2K panic throughout the story help flesh out the characters, but also serve a deeper thematic purpose: a metaphor for the fear of the unknown that also plagues Beverly’s research into her parents. 

While clearly aimed at a younger audience, Menear still manages to add depth and complexity to the characters of “Mixtape.” Beverly, Ellen and Nicky appear to fit common teen stereotypes at first glance, but as the film progresses, so does their character development, which carefully explores who they are beneath the surface and what ultimately bonds them in friendship. 

Allen is skillful in portraying Beverly’s immature innocence in the first act, which makes her later emotional ordeals all the more poignant. Sure to leave an impact as well is Petsa, who steals the show through her role as the intimidating yet kind-hearted Nicky. The character of Anti may play the standard role of a cynical mentor figure, but Thune brings him to life in a way that is refreshing and unique to the film world. As for Gail, Bowen brings some of her “Modern Family” energy to the role of a no-nonsense caretaker that can still show vulnerability when she needs to.

A seasoned director of science-related films and thriller television shows, Weiss gets to branch out and show a quirkier approach to film-making. Nowhere is this more apparent than through the eclectic mix of songs that form the titular “Mixtape.” From “Getting Nowhere Fast” by Girls At Our Best to “Teacher’s Pet” by The Quick, Weiss expertly uses these catchy and nostalgic tunes to tell the love story of Beverly’s parents. A special mention to “Linda Linda” by The Blue Hearts, an 80s Japanese punk rock band that viewers will be pleased they were introduced to.

All aspects considered, “Mixtape” is a beautiful addition to the coming-of-age genre. Boasting a smart script, stellar direction and an accomplished cast, this film can be considered a successfully-made Netflix Original film.

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