The notion that there could be a feature-length version of Jenny Waldo’s short, Acid Test, is instantly exciting and intriguing. I have always felt that LSD in the 1990s has been underrepresented, considering its rampant use. Also, Bikini Kill was my favorite band from then, joining my other rock goddesses, The Go-Gos and Joan Jett. With ingredients like this, the feature-length film version couldn’t fail. Except it does. I wanted to love it but f**k me to tears, it is awful.
It’s the fall of 1992, and Jenny (Juliana Destefano) is a high school senior trying to get early acceptance to Harvard. Her father is a legacy, has a 4.0 GPA, and is Latinx, so the tension over whether she will be accepted is laying slack from the get-go. As this is the only stated goal for the character, once we find out whether she gets in or not, there’s no further momentum. Jenny goes to a Riot Grrl show and later takes a tab of acid. Then both Riot Grrl and drugs are put on the back burner as we continue with college applications and references to Hamlet that are supposed to apply to the story but do not.
“…Riot Grrl and drugs…[and] college applications…”
Jenny’s interactions with her friend Drea (Mai Le) aren’t developed enough, while a lukewarm love interest, Owen (Reese Everett Ryan), who is her acid connection, has zero tension. Jenny fights with her father, Jack (Brian Thornton), about whether she even wants to go to Harvard and asks her mother, Camelia (Mia Ruiz), why she obeys Jack so much. The Riot Grrl element is reduced to collage projects and a haircut with a flash of a live band performance. Acid makes another appearance after forever, and someone narcs on themselves for no reason. Well, actually, it is to all-too-conveniently get the story to an ending which happens because time runs out, like hockey.
The feature-length version of this Trip Grrl world is a horrendous misfire and possibly the biggest disappointment of the year. So rarely has a project shown such promise only to go in the wrong direction completely. Waldo’s 2017 original short was a work of psychedelic genius, where a teen girl drops acid at a Riot Grrl show and is busted by her parents. It hits you like a downed power line, the brilliance fries the viewer via amazing visuals, timing, and performances. Acid Test is the kind of short that you would give a standing ovation to at a festival.
"…the dosed world of Trip Grrl is a story that deserves to be told."