This terrific rendering of the energy, innocence, and angst of the tween years squeezes a lot of emotion and a cast of memorable characters into its 97 minutes.
Mixtape perfectly captures how tweens hit that critical point of growth where they push away from parents (or in this case, a grandparent) and look to define their own identities. The fact that 7th grader Bev's mom went through something similar, then ended up pregnant at 15 and dead in a car crash, makes the transition that much more meaningful.
We feel this acutely in Julie Bowen's portrayal of the no-nonsense postal worker grandma, emotionally stuck in her inability to face the loss of her daughter or allow her granddaughter latitude from a predetermined safer path.
Life doesn't always go the way we plan. The tweens know this, trained for survival in the comically cruel social world of middle school.
Good girls Bev and Ellen are reminiscent of Gilmore Girls' Rory and BFF Lane, and Gemma Brooke Allen and Audrey Hsieh are perfect in the roles. Same goes for Olga Petsa as Nicky, their classmate who dresses and acts tough but is also just tween girl waiting for her period and searching for her place. Record store owner "Anti" (a droll Nick Thune) is a recovering alcoholic with a world-weary demeanor and a heart of gold.
If the characters themselves convey how even good intentions can go awry, then the film's overly-tidy ending should likewise be forgiven.
Rainy, emerald-green Spokane, an interior city in the Pacific Northwest, was a subtle and meaningful choice of settings that matches the '70s and '80s soundtrack to set the mood for this story of love, loss, friendship, and life.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.