Acid Test Review – Entertaining Teenage Journey of Self-Discovery

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Acid Test, from Giant Pictures, brings to the screen an entertaining teenage coming of age story that follows one girl on a journey of self-discovery and questioning after dropping acid at a female punk rock concert.

 

The film begins with Jenny, played by Juliana Destefano, engaged in her Harvard interview. She is smart, articulate, poised and as her father was a Harvard graduate a legacy student, which nearly guarantees acceptance.


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Acid Test is set in 1992, against the backdrop of the presidential election between George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, and throughout the film there are many references to this election, with soundbites from the debates, and campaign speeches.

Jenny, a Latina teen is entering her senior year and as we hear from everyone, she has her life on track, and planned. On a night out with her best friend, Drea, played by Mai Le, she discovers Riot Grrrl, an aggressive feminist punk music, at this same concert a guy from High School, Owen, played by Reece Everett Ryan, shows up and he offer her a tab of acid and she takes it.

Of course, the film offers the cliché version of an "acid trip," psychedelic wave patterns, neon colors and distorted images, which paves the way for a complete derailment of all of Jenny's hard-earned work.


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Suddenly she is acting impulsively. She decides to have her friend, Drea, cut her hair, which becomes a power statement and drifts farther and farther from "the plan."

She suddenly sees her father, Jack, played by Brian Thornton, as borderline abusive, clearly domineering and controlling, as she dives into new experiences. She is months away from her 18th Birthday, and suddenly she has no idea what she wants to do, other than not go to Harvard.

As she becomes more enamored with the feminist culture and all girl punk rock bands, she sees herself as someone who should be more outspoken and is having difficulty finding her "voice" as suddenly she finds herself somewhere in the middle: No longer on the straight and narrow, destined for Harvard, and not yet a not a full-blown riot girl.

After she becomes friends with Owen, the bubble created by the imagination of life always being better bursts, as he explains, his parents leave him alone if he doesn't go off the deep end and publicly shame them with another stints in rehab. They don't care, and he doesn't either.


 

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As she continues rebelling, we see the tension in her home increases, as change often creates upheaval, while she is determined to exercise her own power and independence, she seems to forget that without her parents she will need to find financial support. The issues of life seem as distorted as her acid trip.

Acid Trip is a coming-of-age teen drama, filled with all the angst of issues that are relatively minor in the rearview. When reaching this precipice of adulthood, these kids are facing what they believe are life altering decisions. While we don't see any of them calming down, the concept is after this short explosion which pulls them from their plans, they settle into this new life.

Although a very likable character, Jenny is portrayed as self-centered and not so much as a seeker of enlightenment. Her parents have offered to finance her education, and she appears to trash the entire plan because she feels, influenced by psychedelics, that her life suddenly has a different focus and meaning. She hasn't learned yet that feelings come and go, up on day, down the next, and that major decisions cannot be based on a bad day, which is a life lesson that many struggle to learn. 


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Acid Test celebrates over 70% women and/or BIPOC in its cast and crew including a female writer/director, cinematographer and sound designer and has received the REFRAME Stamp for being a gender-balanced production. Fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions and Fresh Arts, Acid Test premiered at the 2021 Austin Film Festival and has also screened at other prestigious festivals including Dances With Films. The film features music by Texas bands Pleasure Venom, Fea, Giant Kitty, ImposterBoys, Britt, and All Gonna Die

Acid Test is streaming.

Country: U.S.

Language: English.

Runtime: 103 minutes.

Director: Jenny Waldo.

Writer: Jenny Waldo.

Producer: Anna Tran, Eddie Rodriguez, Hillary Felice, Jenny Waldo, Kerianne Parker.

Cast: Juliana DeStefano, Brian Thornton, Mia Ruiz, Reece Everett Ryan, Mai Le, Sara Gaston.

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