We must be in the final throes of summer, with yet another teen drama based on a popular Young Adult (YA) book. Netflix brings us All Together Now, a sometimes heartbreaking but also uplifting tale about a friendly, selfless, cheery High School teen struggling to stay optimistic in the face of mounting adversity. The film is based on the book “Sorta Like a Rock Star” by Matthew Quick, and the vibe is about what you’d expect from the producers of engaging teen movies Love, Simon and The Fault in Our Stars.
Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) lends her charming voice and spirit to the role of Amber Appleton, a musically-gifted high school student with aspirations to study theater at Carnegie Mellon University, her late father’s alma mater. Amber is the type of gal always willing to give others the shirt off her back, but reluctant to ask for or accept help when she really needs it. Which she does. Her father died when she was 12, sending her mother into a downward spiral fueled by alcohol, homelessness, and an abusive boyfriend. Through it all, however, Amber holds on to her dreams – and a ton of jobs. She teaches English as a Second Language, works long hours at a donut shop, and cleans the floors at a senior living community where she befriends a resident named Joan (the legendary Carol Burnett!), who feigns extreme annoyance at Amber’s sunny disposition. Somehow you just know that Amber and Joan will make a significant difference in each other’s lives.
Amber is also surrounded by a solid and diverse group of friends, including her crush Ty (Rheny Feliz, TV’s Runaways), and her adorable little dog, “Bobby Big Boy.” They are her support as tragedy threatens to strip Amber of her spark – and her desire to sing.
All Together Now is a feel-good movie that will leave you emotionally manipulated and misty-eyed as it draws to a rather predictable conclusion. Cravalho doesn’t have reason to break into song all that much, but she does get to show off her vocal chops in a melancholy scene featuring an original song called “Feels Like Home.” It’s one of those power ballads that plays like an Oscar hopeful, even if a bit out of place in a movie that is bittersweet but far from spectacular.
I’m a sucker for a tearjerker with music and friendship at its core. So I enjoyed this little 93-minute escape into a world where people come together for a good cause, and ultimately hope prevails.
All Together Now premieres on Netflix on August 28.