Has anyone involved in the creation of <i>Beat Girl</i> ever been to a rave?
You know a music scene's really blowing up when Hollywood decides to make a movie about it. From Saturday Night Fever to Roll Bounce to that weird film David LaChapelle made about crunk, Tinseltown has always looked to capitalise on new youth cultures. Especially if it lets them wheel out those age-old youth tropes of dance-offs in empty car parks, big trousers, parents who are either religious, abusive or dead, people saying "word" a lot and bullies getting drunk and crying. It might seem a bit weird to you, but Hollywood scriptwriters go nuts for that stuff because they haven't been to a real club since dancefloors still had carpets.
However, the latest film to enter the youthsploitation canon doesn't come from Hollywood. It comes from Britain and because of this, it has been largely ignored by the wider world and banished into provincial cinema obscurity. It's called Beat Girl, and if you're lucky enough to live in Romford, Westgate-On-Sea or County Mayo, you might be able to watch it this week.
For those who don't, the film appears to be a blindfolded and ill-conceived leap onto the EDM bandwagon, the plot something like Bend It Like Beckham set in the shit nightclub from Hollyoaks. Let's face it, I'm not going to see it, you're not going to see it, Beat Girl herself probably isn't going to see it, so let's just try to figure out what it's about from the trailer alone.
The trailer starts with an emotive piano piece that sounds a bit like a "Hometown Glory" rip-off commissioned by an insurance company who couldn't afford the original. As anybody who's ever been to a cinema will know, any trailer that begins with contemplative music will inevitably kick into life as soon as the film's narrative thrust is revealed. I wonder what will happen next?
Oh shit. Not even seven seconds in and we've already got a dead parent on our hands. A brash, insincere male voice ensures us that he's "not responsible for what happened to your mum". We all know that he is.
The voice of the stepfather is revealed to belong to one of those "I swear I've seen that guy before" breed of British actors who seem to make their livings playing alcoholic GPs and racist desk sergeants on daytime TV. He creepily informs our heroine that "If you're gonna live in my house, you gotta play by my rules." If the film weren't so obviously set in that version of London which only exists inside Richard Curtis's mind, I'd assume there was some kind of implicit sexual bartering going on here. Judging by his five 'o' clock shadow and charity shop Henri Lloyd jumper, this isn't a man who's got a chore rota pinned to the fridge.
But wait, what's this? Disco lights! Aerial shots of London landmarks! The sound of awful gym house! All is not lost. There's a whole wide world out there for our girl, and rejected Taio Cruz numbers and tourist locations are the key to accessing the underground EDM scene that is literally under the ground beneath Big Ben.
Suddenly, the narrative reveals itself in all its hackneyed glory. Turns out Beat Girl is a talented classical musician who's got a chance of a scholarship to the famous Juilliard music school in New York. Unfortunately, she has also fallen in love with DJing for Italian tourists with CDs at shit clubs. To beat-match or to Beethoven? It's Sophie's Choice reimagined by Byker Grove.
Of course, all these films need a love story at the heart of them and Beat Girl is no different. Our Prince Charming comes in the unlikely form of a guy who works in a record shop. Weirdly, instead of scorning Beat Girl for her awful music taste, he smiles at her.
Try walking into Honest Jon's and asking them if they've got anything that sounds a bit like "When Love Takes Over". Chances are you won't get a nice guy in X Factor grungewear and a crap hat trying to chat you up, just a look from the clerk like you've kicked his kids' new dog to death and the words "TODD EDWARDS" scrawled on a torn-off page of Shook magazine.
Of course, now that our girl is a budding Nina Kraviz, she's gonna make some cool, new friends. These come in the form of a depressed city worker who's forgotten his tie and a girl who seems to be on a permanent lunch break from the Hummingbird Bakery.
For some reason, her dad gets really pissed off when he finds out she's given some other kid (it's not entirely explained who the kid is) a CD deck. Either he's really not happy with her DJ career, or he's an old school vinyl purist.
All this strife sets us up for the big reveal, Beat Girl's end-of-The-Wrestler moment. She stops in the middle of her piano recital, tells the audience that she "can't do this" and then tells somebody else on her way out that she's spent her whole life "trying to be the person that my mum wanted me to be, instead of who I really am".
So who is this person she thinks she really is?
Deep down, she was always the girl who dreamed of playing filter heavy euro house at fashion shows with a man in a pork pie hat. It's a moment anyone who's ever seen Ferry Corsten play "Adagio For Strings" in a Baltic hockey stadium has dreamed of.
Wahey! Even her dad managed to put those nebulous ideas about vinyl having more "warmth" behind him to enjoy her set. Theo Parrish might not be convinced that CDs are the way forward, but slowly, the dinosaurs of house are being brought into the digital age by people like Beat Girl.
Quite why they decided to reveal this narrative money shot in the trailer I'm not sure, but seeing as the film is showing in less UK cinemas than Run For Your Wife did, maybe the directors just decided this was the only way their story could be told.
I'm not entirely sure what to think of Beat Girl. On one hand it seems like a terrible ploy to attract a youth audience, concocted by the same kind of UK film Industry people who gave Sex Lives Of The Potato Men the green light and probably think that Jive Bunny is still at the forefront of British dance music. On the other, hating on it feels a bit like spitting in your nan's face because she bought you tickets to JLS at the O2 instead of Kerri Chandler at Warehouse Project. It's completely wrong, but you can't help but think that their intentions were pure.
I don't know if Beat Girl will become the Saturday Night Fever for the EDM generation. I don't know if anybody who wasn't directly involved with its creation will ever see it, and I don't know if anybody who was has ever been to a nightclub before. But at least it doesn't look like it's got any competitive street dancing in it.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
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