Movie Review: All Together Now9th October 2020
As easy as it may be to write Netflix off as peddlers of weak romcoms, forgettable action fodder and a market for documentaries of oddities, they do, unfortunately, surprise us from time to time. All Together Now, their latest offering, is one that applies all the usual, trivial cliché of the coming-of-age tale, but wrapped in a half-baked drama that muses on homelessness and the oddities of the American education system. For someone from across the pond, it’s very difficult to ease into this sort of film, mundane, suburban teens complaining about all the sub-standard relationships they’ve yet to have, whilst at the same time heading toward their secondary goal of graduating college. My cynicism has gotten the better of me, and I would quite like to see some of these people fail.
It’s not all bad, All Together Now does at least have consistent performances. Auli’i Cravalho’s leading performance as Amber Appleton would be good if it weren’t mired by an unconventional script. Attempting to pour a delicate story of homelessness and abuse into a conventional romantic drama piece feels a bit like garnishing a Rustlers cheeseburger with golden flakes. Even with this tonal inconsistency lingering the whole way through, it’s hard not to feel yourself flowing along with a story that is easily accessed and not too taxing on a hungover mind. The grand finale is a good culmination of all the threads, neatly tied together with only a few jitters throughout.
The romantic tension between the two lead characters of the group, the cool kid, the nerdy kid, and the weirdo genius. It’s like All Together Now is trying to re-invent The Breakfast Club. It does so, but not very well. With this sort of film, there’s always a teacher at the helm of this oddball group. Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl had Jon Bernthal, The Edge of Seventeen had Woody Harrelson, whilst All Together Now has Fred Armisen. He does very little with his time on-screen, further proof that his best work to date was mocking the Talking Heads discography with Bill Hader. Carol Burnett also appears as the wise old woman, giving off sage advice to our leading character in-between bouts of watching Breaking Bad and being unapologetically miserable. She’s a surprising draw for All Together Now, and one of the few recognisable faces throughout.
It likeable, buoyant energy diminishes rather quickly, the unique style of Brett Haley is lost entirely to the tried and tested formula of Netflix tropes. Haley has gone from semi-charming talent in Hearts Beat Loud to moulding the future of these bleak streaming service dramas. Still, seeing Judy Reyes play a character that works at a hospital does kindle enough nostalgia to make that inevitable Scrubs connection. It’s just not enough to fully enjoy yet another film that plays it safe, the bleak nature of its plot scrubbed with a palette that reeks of conglomerate influence, bland characters, and ineffective storytelling. A real shame that this is the second disappointing Netflix piece from Haley this year.