It might sound like the punchline to a joke, but EMO THE MUSICAL is very real and endearingly earnest in its approach to teen angst. Starting life as a Berlinale award-winning short film, Neil Triffett has successfully transitioned the concept into a feature film. Following its premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year, it finally gets a limited theatrical run in Australia, allowing local punters to experience the
Expanding on the concepts in the short film, we follow the brooding Ethan (Benson Jack Anthony) after being kicked out of his previous school. His luck turns when he’s accepted in Worst Day Ever, the emo grunge band at his new school. However, when the god-loving Hope Group sets themselves up as rivals in the local battle of the bands, the ideologically opposed musicians start a merry war. To make matters worse, Ethan and sunshine singer Trinity (Jordan Hare) start falling for each other.
In Australia’s darker answer to High School Musical, there’s a very mid-1990s sensibility to the musical styles and outfits of this firmly tongue-in-cheek outing. Poking equal amounts of fun at conservative Christian rock and emo culture, EMO THE MUSICAL never comes across as being “anti” anything or anyone, and that’s where Triffet’s script finds its balance and sense of joy. The two are simply used a dichotomy for groups that have far more in common than they think.
Musical highlights include the numbers “It’s Alright to Give Up” and the apt “Was Jesus An Emo?” The vividly shot film, from cinematographer Ellery Ryan (Is This the Real World), opts for a less stylised version of high school than its Disney forebears, but nevertheless has a definite hyper-reality of its own. With a few touches of absurdism, including the home shock therapy kit for the closeted character, and a bully who accepts major credit cards, this is definitely a film for folks who grew up on ABC’s Recovery.