When a small town radio station is sold to a cell phone company, its group of misfit disc jockeys has to put their differences aside and band together to save the station, their jobs, and ultimately their town in Jet Ainsworth’s The Soul Graffiti.
The Soul Graffiti is a fun film that is easy to like. In his notes, director Ainsworth mentions he intended to create a 90’s style dramedy and while there are elements of the ‘90s independent film scene scattered throughout The Soul Graffiti’s 115-minute runtime, Ainsworth is out by a decade. His movie is really a throwback to the comedies of the ’80s in which, for the majority of the time, a bunch of misfits would joke, fight, and insult each other, only to put aside their differences and come together at the end to fight a common enemy or achieve a mutual goal. If I was to say this collectivity usually took the form of a montage soundtracked by something like Starship’s ‘We Built This City On Rock and Roll’, you will know exactly what I am talking about. Also, the likes of Porky’s, Revenge of The Nerds, Police Academy, and some of the National Lampoon alumni films leave their mark. While not being as explicit, clever, or laugh-out-loud funny as the majority of those movies, The Soul Graffiti still gives us enough recognition of them to raise smiles, smirks, and eyebrows.
The Soul Graffiti opens with a mishmash of radio presenting, podcasting, and speaker system sound -the sound direction is great and those in the sound department headed by Jet and Taylor Ainsworth deserve a lot of credit; your ears tingle and react to the different voices, sound effects, and music that are thrown at you in the opening few minutes. The soundtrack is also a big positive as it is littered with familiar songs such as ‘Baby Love’ and ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ and they meld seamlessly into the more generic guitar and piano-based original music that is also used. As the film begins, Madison Dee (played by the enthusiastic Hannah Heart) narrates over different images, graphics, and photographs, getting us up to speed on what has happened since 2019.
An intern at radio station 101 The Jam, the No. 1 radio station in St Anthony Missouri, Dee explains that since the boss’s son has taken over he has changed the station’s playlist and focus. This has led to listening figures falling to an all-time low, and advertisers disappearing to another radio station that has taken their crown. Now, to keep the radio station profitable, redundancies need to be made. We are then introduced to 101’s superstar breakfast DJ Niki Bliss (played by the energetic Danielle Brower) who is enlisted by her smarmy boss Ray Dinkins Jnr (an odious Justin Stidham) to come up with names of the people he should fire. As the film progresses we are presented with a varying and large cast of characters including other DJs, staff, and locals – all of whom have their own personalities and quirks.
Ainsworth, acting as his own editor, shows a lot of skill in the editing suite; the timing of his cuts acts like the punchlines to the comic cries of rage at modern life that inhabit the film’s individuals. The age-old story of small-town locales being swallowed up by larger conglomerates is given some nice twists by his script which is well written with smart dialogue, containing some witty repartee between characters.
A genuine triple threat as a writer, director, and editor, Ainsworth’s greatest success with The Soul Graffiti is probably his ability to match his filming techniques with the humour, realism, and grittiness of his script. I will be very interested in seeing what he can do with the help of a major studio and a larger budget. Something The Soul Graffiti suggests shouldn’t be too far away.