Viena and the Fantomes

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Viena and the Fantomes Movie Poster Image
Smoking, drinking, language in meandering road-trip movie.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Suggests that making music and being cool goes hand-in-hand with broken lives, risky sex, and substance use. The traveling punk lifestyle does look fascinating, if grubby and exhausting. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parents are MIA, young characters seem lost, and few people are kind to each other or supportive in any way. It's hard to understand whether these people love or even like each other -- or what loyalty and support mean to them. Viena, at least, stands up for herself when anyone attempts to abuse her; that said, her goals and feelings are unclear.

Violence

Characters scuffle outside a bar but are quickly pushed apart. It's said that young girls, including a teen, have accused a character of attacking them. A man tells a woman that he wants to "harm her and see her suffering," though this never actually happens.

Sex

Characters have sex with movements and noises; no nudity. Passionate kissing is followed by sex scenes in beds and up against the wall; at one point, a woman groans and squeezes her pillow as a man moves his hand suggestively. 

Language

Language includes "motherf----r," "f--k," "f--king," "bitch," and "a--hole." Plenty of insulting language, like when one character calls another a "f--king retard," and a woman is called a "f--king skank." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke frequently, drink beer and liquor, smoke pot, take unnamed pills. Scene in which character says she doesn't want to take a pill, but another character forces her to. Characters who drink seem sloppy, out of it. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Viena and the Fantomes is a drama about a young woman (Dakota Fanning) who joins a punk band on tour. Many characters smoke, chain-smoking and holding/smoking cigarettes much of the time they're on-screen. Characters also continually drink both liquor and beer -- getting sloppy and sometimes violent -- as well as smoke pot and take various drugs, including unnamed pills. In one scene, a woman who says she doesn't like pills is forced to take one by her male partner. Characters hook up for consequence-free casual sex. Nothing gets too explicit, but you can expect passionate kissing and sex scenes with suggestive movements and noises. Language is frequent and includes "motherf----r," "f--k," "f--king," "bitch," "a--hole," "retard," and more. On-screen violence is infrequent except for a scene in which young men fight outside a bar, but there's an air of menace throughout the movie, and young women fear sexual violence. Viewers also hear that band members have "attacked" female fans, including teens. The traveling punk lifestyle looks grubby and dispiriting, with characters treating each other unkindly instead of pulling together to form a supportive community.

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What's the story?

Set in the 1980s amidst an unsuccessful road tour for an even less successful punk band, VIENA AND THE FANTOMES stars Dakota Fanning as Viena, a young woman who joins the Fantomes' tour as a roadie almost by accident. The band has been getting negative press for its treatment toward its young female fans: It's said that two of the band's members almost drowned a teenage fan in a hot tub. So Viena has to carefully weigh her words and her actions in order to stay safe, especially when she becomes involved in a love triangle between a band member and another member of the road crew. 

Is it any good?

Meandering and slow yet fitfully fascinating due to the compelling setting, interesting cast, and beautiful cinematography, this indie has a spiky, edgy vibe that feels like realistic road life. Fanning, with her big spooky eyes and semi-mute magnetism, is always an interesting performer. Fans of her turn in The Runaways might see Viena as a bit of a riff on Cherie Currie: tattered rock star clothes, jagged suicide-blonde hair, and a take-no-prisoners toughness. Interestingly, Viena has less than a few dozen lines in the movie. Instead of talking, she just confidently takes up space on-screen and in the Fantomes' rundown tour buses and impromptu camping spots. 

Speaking of the titular band, its members don't really emerge as personalities. Freddy (Jeremy Allen White), the band member Viena finds herself attached to, alternately stares silently and throws creepily over-the-top tantrums. Albert (Caleb Landry Jones), whom horror fans will remember as the twitchy, terrifying brother in Get Out, menaces Viena and, we hear, other women on tour, though most of his character's juice comes from the actor's eccentric line readings rather than anything he has to say. Ultimately, not much happens in this movie. But joining a punk band on tour is undeniably cool, and it's pleasant enough to ride with this cast down empty back roads, hang out drinking beers in cluttered travel trailers, and gather around a bonfire in a vacant lot, swapping gossip. The Fantomes live a pretty miserable existence, but from the perspective of a comfy couch, it's kind of cool to spend a little time with them anyway. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the substance use in the movie. Why do you think there's so often a link between drugs and rock and roll? Did the up-and-coming musicians in the movie have to drink and use drugs to be part of that community, or could they have made different choices?

  • What do you think about the way Viena's sexuality is portrayed in Viena and the Fantomes. Was it realistic? How can teens explore their sexuality while staying safe?

  • How does the movie communicate how successful the Fantomes are? Note costumes, settings, the number of extras at the show, how concerned cast members seem about money. How do movies show us that people are rich and successful? What about down and out? Are there any clichés in the way the Fantomes' status is depicted? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love edgy movies

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