TEENAGE BADASS poster | ©2020 Freestyle Digital Media

TEENAGE BADASS poster | ©2020 Freestyle Digital Media

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Mcabe Gregg, Evan Ultra, Madelyn Deutch, Dillon Lane, Elsie Hewitt, Tucker Audie, Brandon “crsh.” White, Karsen Liotta, Julie Ann Emery, Kevin Corrigan
Writers: Grant McCord & Matthew D. Dho
Director: Grant McCord
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media
Release Date: September 18, 2020

TEENAGE BADASS is an odd title for what is essentially an amiable indie rock story. We’re in Phoenix, AZ. The year is 2006, presumably to explain why inexpensive home recording equipment isn’t a thing yet. Our hero is Brad Jaffe (Mcabe Gregg), a seventeen-year-old whose two passions are playing drums and smoking weed. He lives with his mother (Julie Ann Emery), who has chronic pain issues. Brad does housework, while his mom frets about the fact that he’s not college-bound. Nobody would accuse Brad of remotely being a badass.

Brad is a decent drummer, though, so when a local band loses theirs, he gets the slot with the outfit eventually called Stylo and the Murder Dogs. Lead singer/songwriter/bass player Kirk Stylo (Evan Ultra) makes dubious business decisions that his more level-headed girlfriend Candice (Madelyn Deutsch) is sometimes able to override. Guitarist Al (Dillon Lane) is comparatively cool and sane. Keyboardist Mark (Tucker Audie) is slightly older, married, and meek.

How much affection one has for TEENAGE BADASS may be measured by whether a viewer was ever in the indie music, theater, film and/or arts scene, and by whether those memories are fond or foul. Director Grant McCord and his co-writer Matthew D. Dho (who has a supporting role as a gofer) capture the mood and the kinds of craziness perpetrated by small-timers angling for a shot at the big time.

TEENAGE BADASS, unsurprisingly, is also a coming-of-age story, but it doesn’t push this aspect too hard. In fact, the movie’s relaxed attitude towards its main character is refreshing. Brad is at the center of his own life, and he’s a decent human being, but there aren’t big rote life lessons for him. Instead of creating artificial stumbling blocks, the filmmakers let Brad behave sensibly. When his charming new girlfriend (Elsie Hewitt) demands that Brad prove he’s telling her the truth about something, he doesn’t take offense or hem and haw, he simply verifies what he’s said.

There’s a bit of a misstep in the final stretch, where a grand gesture comes off as cartoonish in comparison to the rest of the film, but thankfully this doesn’t last long. Mostly, there’s a familiar feeling of the way home life and personal life and ambition and friendship and rivalry all jostle around at ground level.

The songs, composed by actor Ultra, have an energetic punk/thrash vibe. The music, and the energy of the band, are both credible as commodities that would attract both a crowd and music producers.

Gregg is a likable focal point. Ultra is a bit over the top as the out-of-control Kirk, but so is his character. Lane, Audie, and Brandon “crsh.” White provide staunch support as the other band members.

TEENAGE BADASS isn’t epic, but a lot of it has a sense of veracity. It also has a sense of kindness without being sappy, which is a pleasure.

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