Arts movie review

‘Feel the Beat’ didn’t suck

Please welcome to the stage: this summer’s ‘A Christmas Prince’

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Sofia Carson stars as April Dibrina in the recent Netflix film 'Feel the Beat.'
Ian Watson, Netflix

Feel the Beat
Directed by Elissa Down
Screenplay by Shawn Ku, Michael Armbruster
Starring Sofia Carson, Donna Lynne Champlin, Wolfgang Novogratz
Rated TV-G
Streaming on Netflix

There’s no business like show business… or cheesy romcom movies, of which I am an avid consumer. Routinely disparaged by critics but beloved by audiences, the Hallmark-esque romcom industry consistently churns out the same storylines dressed up in different costumes. Netflix’s Feel the Beat is no exception to this classic formula. Hotshot city girl returning home to her podunk small town after she threw away her shot? Check. Girl in need of change? Check. Lovable, handsome small town boy positioned as the love interest? Check. 

April Dibrina (Sofia Carson) is a budding Broadway starlet who goes viral for accidentally pushing major Broadway producer Ruth Zimmer (Pamela MacDonald) off the stage. After being blacklisted by Ruth and evicted from her apartment, April is left with no other choice but to return to her hometown in cheese-loving Wisconsin. She inevitably runs into several faces from her past including Nick (Wolfgang Novogratz), the ex-boyfriend she dumped over text before leaving for New York, and Miss Barb (Donna Lynne Champlin), her very first dance teacher. Miss Barb then approaches April about preparing her students for a dance competition. Seeing that Welly Wong (Rex Lee), the only Broadway producer who isn’t afraid of Ruth Zimmer, will be one of the judges at the national level, April accepts the position but is met with a rude awakening when she finds that the students are far from competition-ready. 

The overall plot is nothing special: April eventually loses her ice queen demeanor and grows to care for the kids, and everything works out perfectly in the end. Sure, there are some awkward bits of dialogue and a bounty of convenient moments that would only happen in movies, but these features practically define the whole genre. We’ve all seen these scenes time and time again, and Feel the Beat doesn’t do much to diversify from the status quo, though there is less of a focus on the romance aspect. There are a handful of scenes of April and Nick beginning to rekindle their relationship throughout the film, but it was clearly not the focus. Some of the supporting characters received small backstories, notably Sarah (Eva Hauge), Nick’s little sister who was personally hurt by April’s departure, and Kari (Lidya Jewett) who lives a double life by hiding her dancing from her mother. These episodes were weak but admirable attempts to give the story more depth, but with the exception of Sarah’s storyline, were more or less resolved with five second scenes. 

Realism of the swift increase in the students’ dancing skills aside, the dancing itself was nicely integrated and executed. Yes, it utilized the trope of football players versus dancers, but that’s not a big surprise. The dance performances themselves were actually enjoyable to watch, and the film managed to extract many comedic moments from the dance scenes. 

The cast themselves were perfectly okay. To be fair, it’s not necessarily the actors’ fault as the writing offers mostly static characters, so the one-note acting is unsurprising. Carson is able to display a slightly larger range since her character, as the protagonist, undergoes a bit more development. April transforms from a proud cold perfectionist to a humble loving girl who gets her happily ever after, and you can even tell when she switches based on her hairstyle – she quite literally lets her hair down. However, the film does do an excellent job of incorporating a diverse cast. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was not an all Caucasian production.

Now, despite all of its flaws (which are universal to any rom-com), Feel the Beat succeeds at being a heartwarming feel-good movie. No one watches these films expecting some sort of City of God masterpiece. Rom-coms are popular because their lightheartedness, unrealistic plot points, and happy endings make people… feel the beat of a happy heart. Yes, they can be overly cheesy and cringey, but that’s really the main appeal and what makes them critic-proof in a way. Feel the Beat does the cheesy rom-com genre justice and delivers everything you expect and nothing more.