Raise Your Voice is Hilary Duff’s new film about a teen girl, Terri, whose brother (Jason Ritter) is killed the night of his high school graduation. She bought him two concert tickets for a graduation gift, but at the family party that day, her brother sasses his dad (David Kieth) and is grounded. Terri convinces him that they should sneak out; on the way home, a drunk driver kills him and puts Terri in the hospital..
The back story to this is that Terri loves to sing in the school chorus and at church. She wants to go to a summer music camp in Los Angeles, but her dad says no. Her brother makes a DVD of her to send in to the music school to help her be accepted. She is, but the letter comes after her brother’s death and she has stopped singing. Her mother (played by Rita Wilson) and her Aunt Nina (Rebecca De Mornay) conspire to get her there without her father’s knowledge.
Raise Your Voice is about speaking up for yourself (as Terri learns to do with her father) and lifting up your voice through song and instrument. There is a huge moral conflict in the film about lying to get what you want that is never quite resolved. Some parents may be uncomfortable with this; on the other hand, the scenario presents a way for teens and parents to open communication and talk about important values such as telling the truth, dealing with guilt, death, discernment, choices, consequences. The guilt Terri feels for the death of her brother is more than a dramatic plot point; things like this really do happen. Kids make decisions that though deceitful seem “innocent” enough, and then when something bad happens through no fault of their own (being hit by a drunk driver) causes tremendous guilt because: if only we hadn’t gone to that concert. True enough, but the one who caused the death of her brother was the drunk driver, not their ill-conceived and ill-fated decision. Who helps kids deal with the morality and moral fall-out for situations like this? Their parents first of all, but there needs to be communication andmutual respect for this to happen.
I used pink to make this journal entry, because the first audiencefor this film is tween females. However, the complex issues raise the age level and are important for all families to talk about. The music camp creates the wholesome context for the story to play out.
I loved the musicians (especially the violinist) and the gentle humor in the film provided by the goth pianist, the geeky drummer and the one teacher who looks like he is straight out of the Adam’s Family. John Corbett makes an excellent teacher; in fact, teachers as mentors is another positive theme in the film. I also liked Oliver James (What a Girl Wants) as the teen romantic interest; I hope he gets a chance to move out of this kind of role into something that can showcase his dramatic skills a bit more.
Another aspect of the film that will interest a large segment of this audience is that it seeks to make the practice of faith a normal part of a teens life, and the cross Terri wears around her neck is significant as well.