Beverly Moody never met her parents.
They died when she was just two years old, and she was raised by her grandma, Gail, after that. And it’s been pretty good.
However, now that Beverly is getting older, she has questions about her mom and dad. What were they like? What kind of stuff did they like? And perhaps most importantly, would they have liked her?
Gail doesn’t necessarily have all the answers. Luckily, she doesn’t need to, since Bev finds an old mixtape that her parents made for her.
The tape is old and immediately breaks when she pops it in the Walkman. But the cassette sleeve has a list of songs on it.
So now, Beverly just has to track down these obscure tunes and take a listen to discover what kind of people her folks were and what they thought of their little girl.
Beverly and Gail haven’t necessarily had the best relationship, but they wouldn’t call it “bad” either, since they have a routine. Beverly wakes up, Gail takes her to school before heading to her job as a postal worker, Bev does her schoolwork and gets good grades, and Gail saves up money for Bev to go to college.
But when Beverly starts asking more about her parents, Gail isn’t able (or perhaps isn’t willing) to provide answers. She worries that if Beverly is too much like her mom, she’ll wind up getting pregnant at 15 and die. And that might seem like a bit of a stretch, but that’s exactly what happened to Beverly’s mom. And Gail is scared she’s repeating the same parenting mistakes with Bev.
After some rebellion on Bev’s part, the pair shares some heart-to-heart conversations. These discussions lead to apologies and forgiveness on both sides. They’re able to confess their insecurities (Gail’s fear of failure and Beverly’s longing for acceptance) and come to a deeper understanding about the type of relationship they would like to have going forward.
Gail also gets some advice from Anti (the owner of a record store who befriends Beverly after she purchases some of the songs from her parents’ mixtape from him). He tells her that he wasted many years trying to avoid the pain that comes from losing someone you love and that he wound up losing even more people by pushing them away. He reminds Gail to enjoy her granddaughter. And he reassures Gail that she’s doing a good job raising Bev.
Beverly makes several friends while searching for the lost mixtape songs. In addition to aiding her in the hunt, these people defend her against bullies and help keep her spirits up (especially when it seems they might fail). They also all make each other feel wanted and accepted, not weird. And when Beverly tries to push her friends away, they hang on tight, reminding her that they like her for who she is.
When a girl punctures the tire of a boy’s wheelchair at school, the principal rightfully punishes her. However, he also has a conference with the boy’s parents to discuss their son’s bullying (which is why the girl damaged the equipment to begin with).
[Spoiler Warning] Beverly learns that when her parents found out they were pregnant, they were jubilant. And rather than let anyone make them feel as if Beverly was a “mistake” or that she somehow messed up their lives, they celebrate her birth and write a song promising that she is “more than worth the struggle.”
When Beverly and her friends enter an allegedly haunted cemetery, they tell truths about themselves to “keep spirits at bay.”
Gail has given in to the Y2K conspiracy, believing that the world will end on January 1, 2000. (And we see throughout the film that she is in the process of turning her home into bunker.)
When a girl shows up on a woman’s porch unexpectedly, the woman states she doesn’t want to join the girl’s church, falsely assuming the girl is an evangelist of some kind. Someone jokes that rock and roll music causes kids to worship Satan. We hear a reference to a village of the “damned.”
We learn that Gail and her daughter were both teen moms. And it seems that Beverly’s grandfather was not in the picture. It’s unclear if Beverly’s parents wed; but up until their untimely deaths, they were both active participants in their daughter’s life.
A rock star implies that he’s been sexually involved with many women—and that Bev’s mom might have been one of them. When he makes a comment about girls getting younger, someone says “gross” at the implication.
A picture of Beverly’s parents kissing rests on her nightstand. Beverly points out a gay couple in her neighborhood. A girl asks if someone is looking at her breasts when they stare at her T-shirt.
Beverly’s parents died in a car crash when they were just 18.
After a rock star insults Beverly’s mom, Anti shoves the man against a car, forcing him to apologize to Bev and to tell the truth about her mom. He also punches the man when he refuses to comply.
When a brother and sister get caught fighting, their dad chastises them, saying that if they’re going to go at it there will be rules (such as no hair-pulling, no biting and no face-punching). After laying down these “rules,” he allows them to wrestle, and the sister immediately kicks her brother in his groin. And when he complains, their dad tells him to toughen up.
One girl shoves another against a wall. A girl stabs a wheelchair tire with a pen in anger. She also kicks over some boxes accidentally. Another girl kicks a garage door in frustration.
Someone says cops caught a criminal by his ponytail. We hear that people lived through war and famine. Someone makes multiple threats to “knock heads off” and also mentions carrying mace and a switchblade. A girl says she was technically dead for 45 seconds once.
There are a couple of uses of “a–” and “h—.” Someone says “shitake mushrooms” in place of a harsh expletive. We also hear the milder profanity substitutes “gosh” and “heck.” God’s name is misused five times. There is a fair bit of name-calling.
Gail asks Anti if his store is front for selling drugs. (It isn’t.) Anti says that he has been sober for more than 15 years. An adult takes three underage kids to a bar so they can see a rock show. We hear that someone’s uncle is trying to quit smoking. A girl tells a story about a drug dealer. Someone sells a tape with a recording from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Many of the songs on Beverly’s mixtape are by punk-rock bands. And while we don’t hear any explicit or inappropriate lyrics, these bands do inspire a certain level of rebelliousness.
We know that Bev’s mom (who wrote several songs in this genre) “had tattoos” and dropped out of school. And after Beverly starts listening to the same songs, her grades slip, she lies and sneaks behind her grandma’s back, and she gets sent to the principal’s office for the first time in her life (and suspended) for vandalism and damaging a boy’s wheelchair.
Beverly and two other students blackmail Anti into taking them to a concert late at night. They lie to their parents and sneak out of their houses. Then Anti lies to the club’s bouncer that they are his daughters (and 18 years old) to get them inside.
There’s a fair amount of bullying in Beverly’s school. One boy targets her, saying her hair smells like “goat puke.” When his buddy mocks her for being an orphan and calls another girl “ugly,” he gets mad not because his friend is being mean but because of the quality of the insults.
A young woman rides in the back of a post office van with no seatbelt (and some packages occasionally fall on her). A man tells a girl to hold on to her friend for safety since his car is missing a seatbelt.
Someone steals Beverly’s pen after she drops it, refusing to give it back. When someone fails to complete a poetry assignment before class, she wings it, creating a rhyme on the spot. An adult is repeatedly rude and sarcastic toward a child, even though he knows the kid doesn’t get it. Someone assumes a Taiwanese girl can speak Japanese simply because she is Asian. A girl confesses her insecurity at not having her period yet. Someone says a movie causes her to vomit. We hear a man with cancer received an award out of pity.
Mixtape, while not perfect, is a genuinely sweet film about a young girl trying to find her place in the world.
Beverly never met her parents, and she understandably wants to know as much about them as she can. And with every song she hears from their mixtape, she learns a little more about their shared story.
She also learns a little more about herself. Beverly realizes she’s got a little bit of a rebel in her (which admittedly, comes in handy when she’s standing up to bullies). But this rebelliousness also gets Beverly into trouble.
Sure, she makes friends, but her grades also drop, she gets suspended and she lies and sneaks out of her house to go to a rock performance at a bar. To make matters worse, her grandma starts to feel like she’s failing at raising Beverly. And Beverly herself wonders if she is a mistake that ruined her parents’ lives.
However, Beverly’s friends refuse to let her believe that she was unwanted by her parents or her grandma. And they are proven right when Grandma Gail apologizes for not taking the time to enjoy her granddaughter. Gail then plays a song that Beverly’s parents wrote for her, reassuring her even further that even thought she might get some things wrong, there’s nothing wrong with her.
Like Beverly, the film doesn’t get everything right either. It has a few mild swear words, Beverly is bullied cruelly by her classmates and there are hints of sensuality regarding Bev’s parentage (both her mom and grandma were teen moms).
That said, Mixtape succeeds in teaching kids and adults alike that the mistakes we inevitably make in life don’t have to have the last word—even if they’re big mistakes. What’s really important—far more than being liked or fitting in—is that we enjoy being with the people who matter to us. And that we don’t waste time trying to be whatever the world expects of us.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.