Jem and the Four Holograms of the Apocalypse
There are two types of people in this world: People who see Jem and the Holograms on opening weekend, and people who have self-respect. I fall into the former category. This Saturday I walked into a showing of Jem with three of my friends, after consuming a giant chunk of medical pot chocolate. What followed can only be described as a musical water-boarding session, produced by Justin Beiber’s manager.
“Jem And The Holograms” could just as easily be titled “What A Committee Of 45-Year-Old White Male Executives Think Tween Girls Like.” I imagine the movie was conceived in a boardroom, after a conversation that went something like this:
Execu-Bro: “So what do we know about tween girls?”
Justin Bieber’s Manager: “Absolutely nothing.”
CE(br)O: “OK GREAT, let’s resurrect a cult cartoon from the 80’s that contemporary tween girls have absolutely NO CONNECTION to, and then tell them it’s what they wanted all along.”
Justin Bieber’s Manager: “Who wants coke?”
The movie is the filmic manifestation of the shitty X-mas gift your Dad gave you in middle school because he had no idea what was hip. It has bombed at the box office, and you will never see it. And so in an effort to canonize this camp classic before it’s gone forever, I’ve created this handy recap.
OK — so before Jem changed her name and sky-rocketed to fame as the leader of a sister girl-group, she was just a relatable small town girl named Jerrica. Yes, you heard me right: her name is JERRICA. Like, pick Jessica or Erica, but you can’t have them both. Jerrica lives at home with her sister Kimber (again, not a real fucking name), and their two diverse foster sisters who have like 10 lines total in the movie. There is some backstory about how the foster sisters came to live with them and form a band, but honestly I forget, and it quickly becomes clear that everyone loves the foster sisters way less anyway. Jem and her sisters are cared for by their fun/quirky/wise aunt MOLLY RINGWALD. Yes, Molly Ringwald is in this movie and is forced to deliver many “I wish I had taken chances at your age” monologues. Well, news flash: SHE DID TAKE CHANCES AT YOUR AGE, JEM! AND THOSE CHANCES WERE CALLED THE BREAKFAST CLUB AND PRETTY IN PINK. Molly — I’m so sorry you had to re-pay your dues on this movie, but STAY STRONG, GIRL. I AM SHOWING UP FOR YOUR COMEBACK.
Anyway, Jerrica/Jem is such a talented singer/songwriter but also soooo shy, which annoys her fame-whore sister Kimber SO MUCH. Jerrica/Jem’s stage-fright is holding back their sister-band from achieving the middling success they deserve. We learn through flashback that Jerrica/Jem is shy because her Dad is dead, and he’s the one who always believed in her. (Sidenote: Dead Dad was also a robot inventor, which becomes absurdly important later.)
Now, although Jerrica/Jem is SO shy, she still has a song in her heart, which needs to be shared. She wants to make a YouTube video of her singing, but is just too timid to put her own face out there. So, she puts on some terrible makeup, a pink hooker wig and invents an alter ego named JEM.
Then she records a video of “Jem” singing a mediocre pop song, which she wants to delete, but fame-whore sister Kimber steals and puts on Youtube. Will Jem go viral?!?! And just as you may have predicted: no one watches the video, everyone hates her voice, and Jem grows old and disillusioned, eventually joining a local nunnery, where she wastes her talent singing church hymns and becomes a bitter, hardened nun who abuses her catholic school students and ultimately dies of a rare resurgence of tuberculosis. THE END.
JKJKJK. Jem’s video goes viral and she becomes v v FAMOUS AND AMAZING U GUYZ.
OK so literally 2 minutes after her video is uploaded, she gets an email from Academy Award nominee Juliette Lewis, who plays an evil bitch record exec from the “biggest record company in the world.” Juliette’s performance in this movie is an actual revelation. She literally makes fun of this movie to its face, by making a complete joke out of her ridiculous bitch character, and literally acting like a cast member of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She shows up at Molly Ringwald’s house in silver, plastic glitter pants, and tells the girls that she’s gonna make them a famous band, but first they need major makovers cuz they all look like SHIT, HONEY.
Anyway, all this fame stuff seems like a lot for our shy Jerrica/Jem. So, she has a heart to heart with Molly Ringwald and is all like, “But I don’t wanna be famous! I’m super shy cuz my Robot Inventor Dad is dead!” And then Molly Ringwald is like, “Your dead dad would’ve wanted this! Also, we’re about to lose our house cuz I’m poor.” And then Jem is like, “OMG…well now I have to become a pop star so you can save the house from foreclosure!” And then Molly Ringwald is like, “This is not about the house,” even though it totally is, and so Jem becomes a pop star. (Sidenote: I’d totally watch a Molly-centric sequel titled This Is Not About The House).
But being a pop star is not easy you guys. It involves a lot of work, and being constantly yelled at by Juliette Lewis in a 5 minute makeover montage. After the montage is over, Juliette Lewis introduces the girls to her son, Rio (I give up on the fucking names in this movie). Rio is Jem’s love interest, who the casting director clearly found on Grindr.
Rio is basically a hot gay instagram star who somehow managed to convince the producers that he was straight. Anyway, Rio turns out to be a total dick-bag bro, who becomes the band’s bodyguard/driver/babysitter. He mainsplains them on the dedication it takes to be pop stars, locks them in a mansion and gives them curfews. Jem, of course, thinks his misogynistic behavior is a total turn-on, cuz her Dad is dead and she’s desperately seeking a new man to tell her what to do.
Oh…so I forgot to mention, Jem has been carrying around an old broken robot that her dead inventor Dad built, cuz memories you guys. Anyway, that night in their new pop star mansion, the Dead Dad Robot suddenly comes to life, much to the amazement of the band (and much to the shock of the audience who didn’t realize this was a musical sci-fi film). The Dead Dad Robot projects holograms of Jem’s deceased father, and tells them that they need to go on a scavenger hunt for robot parts that are hidden around Los Angeles. Once they find all the robot parts, the robot will reveal a really important family secret. The girls take this INSANE PLOT DEVELOPMENT like it’s totally no big deal at all, and do exactly what the Dead Dad Robot tells them to do.
The rest of the movie is basically a hunt for robot parts, combined with a series of low-budget music videos. At some point, Juliette Lewis backs Jem into a corner and tells her that she has to drop her loser sisters from the band and go solo. Jem’s like “no way, I’ll never leave behind my sisters.” Then Molly Ringwald pops up from her forgotten subplot to tell Jem that they’re actually gonna lose the house in ONE WEEK, and so Jem’s like, “OK, I guess I just have to go solo so I can save Molly Ringwald’s house before the end of the week.”
So Jem/Jerrica goes solo, and totally backstabs her sisters who are basic losers anyway. You see, Jem is becoming a fame monster and losing sight of the sweet and humble Anthropologie model she used to be. Jem gives a shitty solo performance, where she dresses up in a costume that makes her look like what would happen if Sia ate Annie Lennox and then puked out a singing mannequin:
The sisters come backstage after Jem’s Betrayal Performance and are like, “how could you desert us?!” And Jem’s basically like, “Kimber — fuck you, and I can’t even remember the names of my diverse foster sisters.”
But obvi she can’t leave her sisters behind for too long, CUZ FAMILY IS EVERYTHING YOU GUYS. There is a bunch of boring drama, a few more Dead Dad Robot parts, and then Jem apologizes to her sisters for ditching them. Jem is like, ”we’re gonna perform in a climactic 3rd act musical number, and I’M PUTTING MY SISTERS BACK IN THE BAND.” Then everyone else is like, “But what about Juliette Lewis? She has complete control over your music career and will never let the sisters come back to the band!” Then Jem’s Gay Boyfriend is like, “Wait…I think I can help. Let’s break into Juliette’s office and try to find a convenient plot device that can somehow end this movie.”
And so they break into Juliette Lewis’s office and discover the will of Juliette’s dead father, which says that he actually left the company to Juliette’s son (aka Jem’s Gay Boyfriend). Jem’s Gay Boyfriend is then like, “Got you Juliette Lewis! I’m inheriting this record company, and letting Jem perform with her sisters!” Juliette Lewis basically melts into a puddle of mascara and revenge platitudes, and everyone celebrates.
Then Jem finds the last missing piece of the Dead Dad Robot. She sticks it in a random hole, and the robot projects a hologram of Jem’s Dead Dad who delivers a 5 minute monologue where he dadsplains that he set up this whole scavenger hunt from beyond the grave in order to teach Jem valuable lessons about family. After this monologue, it becomes very clear that Jem’s dead dad loved Jem the most, and doesn’t give a shit about Kimber or the interchangeable foster sisters.
THEN THEY HAVE A BIG MUSICAL FINALE!!!!!!! It’s a truly revelatory performance, imbued with all the catharsis of a Pop Chip commercial. Then after OVER TWO HOURS OF THIS SHIT, the credits finally roll.
The best moment of the film happens in a bonus scene after the credits are over. Juliette Lewis appears in a wishful thinking sequel setup, in which she recruits Ke$ha to be the ringleader of an evil rival band to take down Jem. Ke$sha’s brief appearance in the film is a masterclass in how to act while overdosing on molly.
And speaking of overdoses, I realized I was having one as my friends and I stumbled out of the theater, struggling to remember our names. We debriefed in a crappy mall restaurant and tried to figure out if this movie was a sign of the apocalypse, or if we were just high. Spoiler alert: the apocalypse is coming.