ACID TEST is an interesting film for me to review as it takes place in the 90’s, which was the same time I was in high school along with the main characters of this true story based on the memories of director/writer Jennifer Waldo.
Starring Juliana Destefano as Jenny, a Harvard applicant and AP student struggles with her identity out of school, and what the future might have in store for her. How she deals with the mundanity of life is to do what anyone who felt trapped at that time of their life does, listen to music and rebel against the things they felt were holding them down. The movie crescendos with Jenny’s parents confronting her while she’s on acid, and I’ll admit Brian Thornton’s turn as her father Jack had me nervous for Jenny’s well-being more than a few times with his imposing demeanor.
Filmed in Texas on a shoestring budget, ACID TEST doesn’t do anything spectacular in regard to its cinematography, favoring fairly static shots for most of the movie, attention should be paid to the color palette and overall production design though, which elevate the simple camerawork. The concert scenes are well worth a watch for how good they manage the sound (which is great throughout the film) which I’ve never seen another film of that budget do before.
The real star of any story of teenage rebellion film is the soundtrack, and this movie outdoes itself with tracks from bands like Giant Kitty, Fea, Pleasure Venom, ImposterBoys, Britt, and All Gonna Die.
Taking a cue from the Riot Grrrl movement and manifesto, this movie takes a look at Jenny’s descent into the punk rock scene and her own desires after taking a hallucinogenic and opening her mind to more than just school and her parent’s expectations.
Minus the psychedelics, this is probably a very familiar story to a lot of people coming-of-age at the time this movie is set. Punk was a huge part of the 90’s and the Riot Grrrls gave a voice to a generation that felt stuck in the rut of life their parent’s had dug for them. Coming out of the “greed is good” 80’s, ACID TEST frames the protagonist’s story by highlighting the changing political landscape, classism, and ethos of the era.
It feels a bit overly long in some places, and the story could and was already told more succinctly as a short film. There’s no doubt that this movie plays well to a younger crowd. While I lived through this era, dated a punk girl, and share the love for the music and general themes, this movie isn’t made for an over-40 cis white male like me as the audience. If anything, this movie is made in spite of who I am, and that’s great.
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