‘Music comforts us when we’re sad.’
Indeed it can and Beat Girl addresses many different aspects of music, as well as the multitude of different forms the artform can take, from DJ led dance music to classical and improvisation.
Heather (Louise Dylan) is going through a turbulent time in her life. Her mother, a renowned pianist, has died recently and Heather is desperate to receive a prestigious scholarship at Juilliard to take her own prodigious classical piano playing skills to the next level. Now living with her previously estranged father, piano practise at her new home has a distinctive ‘No loud music’ rule and pa is also less than inclined to enjoy her resentful half-brother Mike’s (Percelle Ascott) computer based tunes. Things change in a variety of ways when Mike is caught shoplifting CDs, the least of his concerns as he owes money for his music equipment to a violent dodgy geezer, but the potential police charges are dropped when Heather negotiates with the shop’s owner Tom (Michael Higgs). Tom is also a DJ and introduces Heather to a clubbing world of electronic musicianship that she had previously been unaware of. DJ-ing could also provide much needed cash for her studies. With her audition for potential enrolment to Juilliard and a memorial concert for her mother to rehearse, her fashion student best friend’s shows to provide music for, family issues and a burgeoning relationship with Tom, Heather has a lot to consider, and much to resolve.
Beat Girl takes a variety of characters and issues and places them in a modern social context, looking at the pressures of trying to achieve one’s goals and how these can result in families having difficulties understanding each others’ emotions and personal needs. In a dense story, there are also subplots involving Heather’s friendships and potential romances. Still mourning the death of her mother, Heather not only has to become re-acquainted with her father and his foibles but also get to know her newly found half-brother. The strength of the film lies with the balance of Heather and Mike’s relationship. In addition, she has ambitions become a renowned concert pianist on top of her studies, financing issues and demands from her friends who themselves desperately want to succeed in the world of fashion.
Beat Girl is an amiable enough film, but there are a few problems with its scripting. Some of the scenes do not quite feel credible – the transition from Heather’s angry defensive diatribe in the CD shop (as she tries to have the charges against Mike dropped) to flirting with Tom feels rather too swift and the resolution of Mike’s shady dealings are too convenient to be true, even if they have been effectively foreshadowed. Similarly, the editing feels temporally confused during the climactic scene as we see Heather decide what she actually wants to do with her life.
Music is an inherent part of the film and it has a nicely eclectic score, contrasting DJ culture with classical piano music, mixing Chopin with clubbing scores and is hugely important in understanding the motivations of many of the characters. Well intentioned, enjoyable and easy to watch, Beat Girl provides a different take on families, friendships and romances but occasionally lacks plausibility.