Netflix’s Mixtape is a surprisingly wholesome tween movie. Set in 1999, 12-year-old Beverly Moody (Gemma Brooke Allen) lives with her grandmother Gail (Modern Family’s Julie Bowen) since her young parents died in a car crash when she was only two. When knocking boxes over, Beverly discovers her parents’ broken mixtape and consequently tries to find each of the songs to learn more about her mom and dad. Cute, right?
Beverly ends up visiting the local record shop where she meets Anti (Nick Thune), the grumpy yet easy-to-cave-in worker who reluctantly agrees to make a tape for her. The film begins taking off from there, and Beverly gets more determined to find each song on the mixtape, hoping by doing so she will feel more connected to her parents.
Mixtape feels properly set in its spunky ‘90s time, though also with a strong ‘80s influence to serve the story. References range from Back to the Future all the way to a young Britney Spears, where Beverly and her crew live it up retro with crumpled hair and pop music galore. With the advice of her new friend, Beverly immerses herself completely in ‘80s culture, wanting to live like how her parents did. It’s certainly a bold movie for a middle schooler in 1999—in a place where she’s frequently bullied—to reinvent herself in punk clothes, blowing bubble gum and calling everything “rad.”
The school’s initial reception to Beverly’s wardrobe update isn’t exactly realistic, but it’s heightened in an entertaining way to see students staring in total shock at this drastic change. More importantly, it’s about how Beverly’s determined to not be the same girl she was at the beginning of the film. She’s learning more about her parents, which is helping shape her identity. ’80s obsession or not.
Ultimately, the heartfelt Mixtape isn’t only about remembering the past and taking something from it. It’s about making new friends and memories, too. As you can expect, Beverly picks up some new companions in her quest to find the rest of the mixtape songs, and seeing the tightening of their bond is a warm addition to a story about moving on from tragedy. Beverly may have lost her parents, but she’s not destined to be alone.
Aside from the friendship element, the full-circle ending in Mixtape involves a use of fireworks that wonderfully ties the parents’ story to Beverly’s ongoing one. It’s the rare time when the ending of a film like this is really worth celebrating. Beverly’s process of getting to know her parents is certainly a painful one at times, but the film shows that it can also be a lot of fun, as she infectiously dances her heart out to the same music they loved. The emotional foundation of Mixtape is comfort and joy, no matter the trauma.
The characters in Mixtape feel real and perhaps that’s what makes the film so powerful. For those who were alive in the ‘80s or ‘90s, maybe you’ll be struck with nostalgia by all of the iconic music and clothes. For those born in the 21st century, like myself, I may not get nostalgic, but I can appreciate a film that does a great job taking me back three decades and making me feel like I’m right there with Beverly, Ellen, Nicky, The Stooges, The Kinks, and you get the idea.
Mixtape is now available to stream on Netflix. Watch the full trailer here.