Published Feb 01, 2021Downfalls High is a pop-punk musical produced and co-directed by Machine Gun Kelly, who needs to be reminded of a) the definition of "musical" and b) that he's a 30-year-old man.
Trying to appeal to the Gen Z crowd, MGK has set this musical in a high school and cast Tik Tok star Chase Hudson (a.k.a. Lil Huddy) and Euphoria's Sydney Sweeney as the main characters. From the early teasers, it seemed like a promising musical about two teenage star-crossed lovers. Instead, we get a 50-minute long music video (based on the album Tickets to My Downfall) with about 10 minutes of script.
The musical starts with Fenix (Hudson) in what appears to be a psychiatric hospital. He's in a wheelchair, and has on a pink hospital gown, a straitjacket and a bandage over his left ear. He's wheeled to the front desk by a nurse and is given his clothes back, presumably being discharged after whatever happened to his ear; we later learn that he cut his ear off during graduation. Very Van Gogh.
As he's being wheeled around, MGK (who is also wearing a pink hospital gown) sings "title track" off Tickets to My Downfall , with Travis Barker playing drums in the background. For a musical, you would expect the main characters to sing, but no, they're just here to deliver the occasional "fuck you." MGK playing through his entire album in cutaway scenes that have nothing to do with the story is the "musical" part.
Right as he's being discharged, the audience is whisked away to Fenix's life before he cut off his ear. As the audience can probably predict, he's an outcast at Downfalls High. The popular boys — who also look like angsty and emo — bully him by knocking down his books and call him names. One day, when he's sitting alone on the bleachers and contemplating dropping out of school, we meet Scarlett (Sweeney). She's got blond hair, a pep in her step and dresses like Cher from Clueless. She's the textbook popular girl.
And as if this musical couldn't get more predictable, the two of them start dating. Things are going well, until she gets pregnant. (Why are movie teenagers incapable of having safe sex?) They fight, make up, and she buys him a guitar. This storyline is playing out like a badly written discount YA novel targeted towards rebellious tween girls. Then Scarlett gets into a car crash and dies.
From there, Fenix starts a band called Pink Switchbalde, he's busted sleeping on Scarlett's grave, and we get to the whole ear-cutting bit. It could have been an entertaining and conversation-starting musical on loneliness and codependency, but, unfortunately, MGK tried too hard to be edgy.
The script taking up only about 10 minutes (or less) of the musical would have worked if Fenix and Scarlett had at least one conversation on the nature of their relationship or helping Fenix make the most of high school. It would have been great to see Fenix's best friend talk to him about Fenix's codependency issues. Starting a band doesn't magically make one's mental health issues go away.
Instead, the characters drop countless F-bombs and raised middle fingers. Four minutes into the musical, this conversation occurs in the girl's bathroom: "What about Mr. Harris?" "He fucking sucks." "I think he's kinda hot." Right after, MGK launches back into "kiss kiss." The script didn't have to be this atrocious if MGK just took more time with this project.
MGK didn't have to make an appearance in this musical at all. If he had casted actors who could sing pop-punk and let them convey the emotion, this endeavour might not have been so dissonant and jarring. Downfalls High is a 50-minute cringefest that rings hollow. If you are a fan of Machine Gun Kelly and want to support him, then go ahead and watch this. But if you're looking for a love-struck pop-punk musical that shines a light on mental health, then this isn't it.