Jem And The Holograms(2015)
- RatedPG /GenreAdventure, Fantasy, Musical
With the countless ways that social media has revolutionised our lives and the entertainment industry, ‘Jem and the Holograms’ has the right concepts to make it one of the more relevant films of the year.
A reimagining the 1980s television series ‘Jem’, Jon M. Chu’s film adaptation is a modern tale about a teenage singer-songwriter who becomes a YouTube phenomenon. Amped up with catchy music, the film seeks to explore multiple issues from identity in the Internet Age to finding the courage and a voice, to valuing family and love.
It sounds dangerously overambitious, and in the span of a disorienting two hours, it certainly is. In fact, ‘Jem and the Holograms’ veers off in so many different directions that it ends up pulling itself apart.
STUFFED AND CONFUSED
Jerrica Benton (Aubrey Peeples) is a talented but guarded singer-songwriter with apprehensions about exposing herself and her music to the world. She records and performs an original song under the pseudonym and personal nickname ‘Jem’, only to have her younger sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) secretly upload the video to YouTube.
Almost instantly, Jem becomes an internet phenomenon, and Jerrica and her sisters/bandmates are picked up by record label Starlight Enterprises and whisked off to Los Angeles.
It is amidst the confounding world of show business that 51N3RGY (“Synergy”), a robot and hologram built by Jerrica’s deceased father, comes to life and reveals a quest left behind for Jerrica.
For a film that explores identity and authenticity, ‘Jem and the Holograms’ is terribly confused about what it wants to be. It remixes music with coming-of-age and familial elements while also tossing in fragments of science fiction, adventure, mystery and even a heist sequence. Naturally, there is also the obligatory and tacky love story with Ryan Guzman’s dreamy male lead, Rio.
The result is a film that is stuffed, shallow and underdeveloped in all of its aspects, in which even the music fails to retain its spotlight. The soundtrack, albeit catchy and one that could believably do well on the airwaves, is repeatedly pushed aside to make room for the countless other thin sub-plots, none of which have enough depth to make any impact.
BRIEF REDEEMING MOMENTS
In spite of its incoherence, ‘Jem and the Holograms’ does have a handful of sweet moments and an intriguing interweaving of fan-made videos into more climactic scenes. Its up-tempo progression and passable humour help to make the film easy to take in, even if it is far from satisfying.
22-year-old lead actress Aubrey Peeples, who has already proven herself as a singer on three seasons of the musical series ‘Nashville’, certainly looks and sounds like a girl who could rise to fame on YouTube and, later, in the music industry. Her believability is appreciated in the otherwise confounding narrative.
But these small redeeming moments are ultimately lost in the whirlwind “adventure” that ‘Jem and the Holograms’ strives to be.
The film might want for its protagonist the same success that the source material enjoyed 30 years ago. But with social media at its disposal, ‘Jem and the Holograms’ only becomes distracted and floods the screen with half-baked information.
For all of Jerrica’s supposed self-discovery, the film instead leaves it viewers confused about what has happened and why, and if we are supposed to feel a particular way about it.
'Jem & The Holograms' opens 26 November 2015