All Together Now (2020)

All Together Now
Director: Brett Haley
Writer: Matthew Quick, Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Based on: Matthew Quick‘s novel Sorta Like a Rockstar
Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Rhenzy Feliz, Justina Machado, Judy Reyes, Anthony Jacques, Gerald Isaac Waters, Taylor Richardson, Fred Armisen, Carol Burnett
Seen on: 2.4.2021

Content Note: ableism

Amber (Auli’i Cravalho) is a friendly teenager who always looks at the bright side, even though her mother Becky (Justina Machado) fell on hard times and they are currently homeless, sleeping in the school bus Becky drives. Nevertheless, Amber still finds the time to work in a senior residence, give pay-as-you-wish English lessons and helps take care of a neurodiverse teen who is one of her best friends, Ricky (Anthony Jacques). Ricky, Ty (Rhenzy Feliz), Chad (Gerald Isaac Waters) and Jordan (Taylor Richardson) are Amber’s social net, but they don’t know how difficult things are for her at the moment because Amber has a hard time accepting help. When things get even worse, though, and it looks like Amber may have to give up on her dream of going to Carnegie Mellon, something has to give.

All Together Now is incredibly cheesy and Auli’i Cravalho is almost the only thing that makes all that cheese bearable.

The film poster showing Amber (Auli'i Cravalho) in a van surrounded by her friends. All are laughing.

You really have to be in a particular mood ot stomach All Together Now because everything here is geared towards being “uplifting”, with Amber in full Pollyanna-mode for most of the time. There is a little more nuance to it and Amber does get to despair and be sad, too, fortunately, but in the end, you need to want all the optimism and “life is good, actually” that the film throws at you.

Auli’i Cravalho does her damned best to make more of Amber than just the nicest, most courageous young woman anybody could ever dream up, and she largely succeeds – a testament to her skill, charm and star power. When she and Justina Machado are on screen together, the film is absolutely at its best, their relationship feels so natural.

Amber (Auli'i Cravalho) talking to Ty (Rhenzy Feliz) in school.

The casting was generally pretty good and I very much liked that they cast an actually autistic person in the autistic role (Jacques) as well as an actual wheelchair user as a wheelchair using character (Waters). Props to that, although, their characters being disabled/neurodiverse was probably just another convenient way to show how awesome Amber is, she is even friends with “people like them”. (Of course, neither of those two boys is her love interest because that would be a step to far.)

I found myself a little annoyed with the film’s manipulative ways, instead of being able to sink into them. I would have liked to like it a little more, but it just was too contrived and way too sweet for me.

Amber (Auli'i Cravalho) standing next to a piano.

Summarizing: If you’re looking for something cheesy, by all means, go for it. Cravalho is certainly worth it.

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