Review by Tatiana Miranda
For modern indie music fans, Press Play promises an exceptional soundtrack filled with Father John Misty and Japanese Breakfast that plays an important role in the plot of the film. Yet, its fun soundtrack and time-traveling concept can’t save the many faults of Greg Björkman’s directorial debut.
A love story centered around the loss of music fanatic Harrison, the magic of mix-tapes comes into play as his girlfriend Laura learns she can revisit the past through a mix-tape they made. Rushing to save Harrison from his untimely death, Laura shifts important moments in their relationship in an attempt to deal with her grief.
The concept of Press Play will intrigue any music fan with its elements of High Fidelity and the sci-fi aspect, similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But unlike those films, Press Play is devoid of any real emotion or musical nuance. The movie opens in medias res with Laura time-traveling via cassette tape before cutting to Laura and Harrison’s first introduction. From there, we get glimpses of their relationship through key moments that are backdropped by songs that will later be on their mix-tape.
The fast-paced depiction of their relationship does little to direct the audience’s emotion when Harrison is killed by a drunk driver, so Laura’s crazed attempt to bring him back feels unwarranted and uncharacteristic. Moments of conflict in their relationship also feel unimportant as they are quickly and efficiently solved between the two, making Laura’s later regret all the more confusing.
Beyond the depiction of their relationship, Laura and Harrison also individually fall flat. Laura is an artist who meets Harrison through her friend Chloe, Harrison’s step-sister. After Harrison’s death, Laura becomes distant and unresponsive to what seems to be her good friend Chloe; granted, their relationship has always revolved around Harrison, so it’s unclear what their average friendship dynamic is actually like.
Meanwhile, Harrison is a supposed music enthusiast who works at a local record shop while he’s not studying to be a doctor. Harrison’s music expertise is only exhibited by him working at the shop and the fact that he initially tells Laura he doesn’t like Japanese Breakfast. Besides that, along with some quips about the unique aspects of records, his music expertise doesn’t go any further. His plan to become a doctor is also cut short when he decides to stay with Laura instead of continuing his studies.
Both Laura and Harrison appear more like caricatures of artists and pretentious music nerds than accurate or even at least interesting depictions of the two. This, in combination with the weak premise of their relationship, makes any interesting piece of the time-traveling aspect feel unrewarding. The final scene, where Laura gets her wish, disregarding anything she had learned earlier, puts the nail in the coffin for any sort of likability in Press Play.
Press Play premieres in theaters and on-demand on June 24th.