Aussie movie EMO the Musical is like High School Musical… if everyone in High School Musical hated each other and was also really fucked up.
When I think of odd pairings, I think of vegemite chocolate (sorry Cadbury), a Saw children’s television adaptation, and emos and musicals. Well, turns out the last one kind of works… kind of.
Written, composed and directed by Neil Triffett (talented dude), this black comedy centres around high school emo Ethan (Benson Jack Anthony), who after being expelled from his previous school for attempted suicide, finds himself in a new and equally hostile school environment.
Yet as if the school grounds are a prison yard, the local emos take Ethan under their wing. That is after Ethan proves just how much he hates the world and wants to kill himself. Obviously.
Ethan becomes the back-up guitarist of their band ‘Worst Day Ever’ (positive as ever), and helps their push for victory in the local Battle of the Bands competition.
This is made all the more complicated by the emos’ arch nemesis: The religious Christian students, who have also entered the rock competition. It also doesn’t help that Ethan finds himself deep in a forbidden love with one of the Christian students, Trinity (Jordan Hare). God bless Satan, am I right?
EMO the Musical is certainly a comedy, but it could be funnier.
The comedic strength of EMO the Musical is in the ridiculousness of the whole narrative. We have Ethan the emo and Trinity the Christian as our Romeo and Juliet. We have a school that looks like its gone to complete shit due to government funding cuts (they get saved by the money of an anti-depressant company, in return for the constant handouts of anti-depressants to students). And we have singing emos. SINGING FUCKING EMOS.
In terms of conventional jokes, they are definitely there, some of which are very funny. But there are also lines that feel forced and fall very flat. This unfortunately is a problem you see fairly often in Australian films. Unlike Hollywood big budget movies, Aussie flicks don’t have the budgets to go through extensive script edits. The result is that sometimes they feel like they require just one more draft. That being said, Hollywood still manage to fuck it up on a consistent basis, and they’ve got trillions.
The bottom line is though, the film as a concept is quite mad. And that’s great.
It’s time to talk music…
Whereas sometimes the dialogue sounds a little off, the music is near perfect. Not only do the song outbursts sound lovely, but they’re often hilarious. And even when there is a more ballady love song, these are filled with punchy one liners.
I’ll be honest. I usually find movie musicals a pain in the old backside. Why do they need to break out into song? How does everyone know the dance moves? And shutup?
But in EMO the Musical, it only helped to reaffirm the absurdity of the whole film. None of this takes itself too seriously.
I really liked the themes behind EMO the Musical.
EMO the Musical isn’t just a total piss-take. It actually has a lot of nice messages. And this begins with the idea of emos.
Emos are famous for the lack of, or even hate towards, the concept of happiness. They are gloomy, pessimistic and pissed off. EMO the Musical however attempts to find the happiness in everyone, be it music, friendship, or love.
And Triffett doesn’t try to hide it. Ethan is often portrayed ranting about happiness and its impossibility (and eventually its importance). I mean, the whole bloody school is sponsored by a ‘happiness’ company! This is actually particularly clever. While the anti-depressant donors claim to have the chemical solution to happiness, it is shown as futile in the face of the joy born out of human connection.
The ultimate message becomes the importance of being true to yourself. Find who you are and what makes you happy, and embrace it.
But while the emo concept is hilarious, it is also one of the film’s main flaws.
As a happy dude who doesn’t like combing his hair over his eyes, it took a while to empathise with the emo protagonist and his cohorts. It is such a niche sub-culture that I felt like I needed an explanation as to what exactly these people believe and why they believe it.
I also feel like it is a group whose attention in the media and pop-culture has waned recently. In the 2000s, emos were the talk of the town. Punk rock was rocking! But watching the movie, I couldn’t help thinking it felt a little outdated, as if it was meant to be released 10 years ago but took a long time to make. This may well have been the case.
Ultimately though, EMO the Musical is an enjoyable and engaging Aussie film, and one that even non-emos should head to the cinemas and watch.
My Rating: 7/10
We interviewed Emo the Musical director Neil Triffett. You can read that interview here.