Downfalls High Is MGK’s Downfall

While a review of a “pop punk Grease” probably has no place on a blog focusing on queerness, I am incapable of shutting up about content I consume. I also believe a lot of queer adults my age grew up on the decidedly “outcasted-ness” of pop punk and related genres, so let’s not pretend we weren’t watching out of sheer curiosity. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Machine Gun Kelly’s switch from rap to pop punk. Although I kept a critical eye on the album, I thought: Good for him; he’s found his sound. Rap wasn’t working out and from a business standpoint, this makes sense. 

Which, it does. I listened to one (1) MGK song when he was in the rap game, and I did it whilst screaming “guilty pleasure.” He’s marketing to a younger, more profitable crowd. High school and teen angst are popular because so many people can relate. 

That being said (and don’t get me wrong, I love this song), ‘drunk face’ keeps making my friends and I laugh because like… dude, you’re thirty. 

But anyways, on to Downfalls High and why I’m disappointed enough to write about it (inevitably sending more views his way, which is fine). 

It’s a little less than 50 minutes, and for about 70%, all I’m seeing is Machine Gun Kelly and his friends dancing in front of the camera and performing. I’m confused, because I thought this was supposed to be a musical. He sang so much praise on what a game-changer this would be, but we’re still on old Atari. 

The only actor I knew going in was Syndey Sweeney, and I adore her, so it’s complicated to say what my expectations were. I had none, really. TikTok and the stars on the platform are ultimately forgettable, so Lil Huddy’s bar touched the floor. In fact, the bar for this entire project lied at my feet because I figure it’s a crapshoot when MGK is involved. 

Somehow, they still missed the mark. 

The beginning showed plenty of promise. I wanted to know what happened and what angle this story would take. I suppose I at least expected a cheesier storyline, because the (spoilers ahead) teen pregnancy surprised me (while at the same time, it kinda didn’t). If it feels like I’m jumping into the middle of a movie, I’m not. 

We learn that Sweeney’s character (Scarlett) is pregnant at the 13-minute mark. There is thirty-six (36) minutes to go. I’m sitting here wondering, ‘Are they gonna break up? Is she gonna get an abortion? What conversation is this trying to start?’ 

The answer is just no. Nothing as far as consequence or conversation. She goes to buy him a guitar because she “wants him to start a band.” His character is flat with no motivation and it shows. Then, as she’s asking, “can we talk later?” I’m struck with a feeling that I only ever get when a character in a horror film says, “I’ll be right back.” 

She’s going to die, isn’t she? 

Yes, she dies. 

I’m IMMEDIATELY removed from the gravity of the moment because whoever is on the phone telling Lil Huddy (Fenix) that she’s dead, wins in the category of overacting. Was that supposed to be her mom? Her friends have been depicted as vapid and shallow, so I doubt they would condescend to speak to him – but why would her mother reach out to him like that? It was awkward to say the least. 

And that’s what this entire “film” suffers from. The writing is so clunky and clumsy, I can’t take any of it seriously, let alone have fun (unless I’m having a laugh with my other friends watching). 

After Scarlett dies (there goes most of the budget paying for Sydney), the storyline is butt cheeks. We are only at the 22-minute mark. God, help me. 

I made it 33 minutes before I started wondering if I should give up. I already watched so much, I might as well finish. I try to justify the existence of this movie by reminding myself that it was made during quarantine. The limits of what we’re able to do can affect quality. 

There was no payoff whatsoever. 

Modern day Holden Caulfield mopes because his friends uploaded a song he wrote and sang, claiming, “I don’t want the world to hear this shit,” and I have to scream. WHAT WAS THE POINT, YOU DUMB FUCK? 

He keeps moping until the people who endlessly tormented him (Scarlett’s former “friends”) start coming up to him for clout, and he realizes one of the girls has Scarlett’s purse. Rightfully angry at their insensitivity and absolute lack of character, he snatches the bag with no difficulty. I’m again taken out of the moment because, what? She doesn’t get any of her belongings back from the purse? 

The question is answered in the very next shot, because he quickly discovers that the girl just… had Scarlett’s stuff in the bag? I’m so confused. Why did she just keep her dead friends’ diary and pregnancy test? Weird. 

Also, the big reveal to Fenix is that his dead girlfriend was pregnant, and he goes insane. 

In what tried to stand next to the gut-wrenching ending of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” where the titular character ends his suffering by committing suicide in front of his shocked classmates, Fenix accepts his diploma by cutting his ear off. I’m suspecting I was supposed to feel something. 

Instead, I’m thinking about writing down all my complaints, and I find myself wondering about a throwaway one-liner from earlier in the movie: What was so important that the Jughead friend dropped out for? We never learn that. 

Nothing is accomplished. No grand story is told. I spent more time lifelessly watching the artists perform than enjoying a “musical,” as was advertised. I read somewhere this musical turned “dark,” but if anything, it feels more like a Diet Edgy. Watered down darkness. 

God, that sucked. 

I don’t know what I expected.