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Read this before you see All Together Now

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

What do you get when you combine a writer with a talent for telling stories with quirky, lovable characters, a director who specializes in heartwarming films, and an all-star cast of funny, musically talented actors? You get All Together Now, which debuts on Netflix on August 28.

Directed by Brett Haley and starring Auli'i Cravalho, the movie tells the story of bright, determined high school student Amber Appleton's quest to achieve her musical dreams despite struggling with a shameful secret, all while learning how to let others help her as much as she helps others. Will you laugh? Will you cry? The answer to both is "yeah, probably." Here's everything you need to know before you watch All Together Now.

Sorta like Sorta Like a Rockstar

All Together Now is based on a 2011 novel called Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick, a name that might be familiar to anyone who enjoyed the Oscar-winning 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook. He wrote the book that the Bradley Cooper- and Jennifer Lawrence-starring movie was based on, so it should be no surprise that his other published works are making their way to Hollywood as well. So what's this latest Quick-penned movie all about?

When you're in high school, keeping secrets is second nature. Who you have a crush on, how quickly you rushed through your homework to get it done on time, or even what you heard about that guy who did that thing in that place that one time. But more than anything, one of the biggest secrets a high school student might keep is how different they are from their peers — or what struggles they might be going through at home. That's the sort of struggle faced by Amber Appleton in All Together Now.

See, Amber is a talented, ambitious, and caring young woman who is beloved by teachers, students, and members of the community in equal measure. But no one knows that she and her mother are homeless, a fact that complicates her hopes of auditioning for the music program at Carnegie Mellon University college. How can someone whose every waking moment is spent caring for others learn how to accept a little care for herself?

Auli'i Cravalho

Playing All Together Now's lead role of Amber Appleton is Auli'i Cravalho, an actress who got one of the biggest break a young performer could ever hope for. Back in 2016, she provided the voice for Moana in the movie named after her, a megahit animated Disney musical that earned two Academy Award nominations. As it happened, Cravalho almost didn't get the part that made her famous because she didn't even plan on auditioning.

"I was getting through my freshman year, and there were already so many great submissions over YouTube," she told People in 2015. Fortunately, a casting director working on Moana noticed her vocal talents during a charity singing competition. Soon enough, the 14-year old was cast in the iconic part, and her career has taken off.

Since bringing one of Disney's most beloved new characters to life, Cravalho's been on a definite upward trajectory, scoring the role of Lilette in NBC's 2018 musical series Rise. The next year, she portrayed yet another iconic Disney heroine, taking the role of Ariel on ABC's Little Mermaid: Live. As Amber Appleton, Cravalho will be putting her powerful singing voice to good use, as the film features inspirational songs and performances that made her a breakout star in Moana. It's hard to imagine a more perfect young actress to lead the film.

Justina Machado

Justina Machado should be a familiar face to anyone who's turned on a television in the last 25 years. The acting veteran, who plays Amber's mom Becky in All Together Now, most recently played Lupe on 2017's One Day at a Time remake. But before that, one of her highest-profile television gigs was a recurring role as Vanessa Diaz, the long-suffering wife of mortuary worker Rico on Six Feet Under.

But those are just the roles she's most known for. Machado has been a mainstay on the big and small screens for decades, breaking into the business in 1993 with a role on an ABC After School Special and following that up with an appearance on the short-lived crime drama Missing Persons that same year. A few years later, her career officially took off with roles on Touched by an Angel, Early Edition, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, ER, and so many more. Her work in movies also saw her land parts in films like Final Destination 2 and AI: Artificial Intelligence, The Purge: Anarchy, and The Call. Simply put, if you want an experienced actor to ground your movie or TV show, Justina Machado is on your list.

Fred Armisen

Another core member of the cast of All Together Now is a huge name in the world of comedy: Fred Armisen as Amber's Drama club teacher Mr. Franks.

Armisen should be no stranger to fans of sketch comedy, as he was a popular castmember on Saturday Night Live from 2002 to 2013, and co-created and starred on the IFC sketch show Portlandia with punk rock icon Carrie Brownstein. Additionally, Armisen has had roles and cameos in tons of influential comedies over the last several years. He made a memorable appearance as Tino in Anchorman, played a reluctant cannibal on The Last Man on Earth, co-starred with Maya Rudolph in the strange dramedy Forever, and co-created Los Espookys on HBO. And who could forget his creepy turns as a full-grown baby-man on Broad City and as infamous Jinx Robert Durst on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?

And that's just the stuff where he's acting. Armisen has also long had a career as a musician, most recently serving as the bandleader of the 8G Band, which provides music for Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC. Before that, he was the drummer for the punk band Trenchmouth. He fully blended his love of music and comedy when he released his 2018 Netflix Comedy Special Standup for Drummers. And Armisen is making the same kind of combination of humor and harmony in All Together Now, as Mr. Franks' warm, funny presence helps provide Amber with the confidence to pursue her musical dreams.

Carol Burnett

While we've only just scratched the surface of Armisen's resume, it's even harder to sum up Carol Burnett's long career. Burnett plays the role of Joan, a cynical retirement community resident Amber befriends in All Together Now.

A hugely influential force in the world of comedy, Burnett's been in showbiz since the '50s. After appearing on The Lucy Show, Get Smart, The Twilight Zone, and more, Burnett got her own variety comedy show in 1967 called, simply, The Carol Burnett Show. According to Parade, it made history as the first network TV variety show to be hosted by a woman, ran for 11 years, and racked up 25 Emmy wins. And Burnett has continued to land memorable roles since, like Mrs. Hannigan in 1982's big-screen version of Annie and Dotty in 1992's Noises Off, with television projects ranging from Mad About You in the '90s all the way up to playing the president in 2018 on Angie Tribecca. She even returned to her variety show roots with Netflix's A Little Help with Carol Burnett in 2018.

In short, Burnett's been a constant and beloved presence in comedy, and she's the perfect person to support a rising star like Auli'i Cravalho.

Director Brett Haley ties it All Together Now

With his directorial debut, 2010's The New Year, Brett Haley quickly established himself as a strong new voice in the world of smart, heartfelt indie film. In that film, based on a script Haley co-wrote with his sister-in-law Elizabeth Kennedy, a young woman puts her life on hold for several years to care for her sick father. When she starts to realize that there's more to life than spraying down bowling shoes and going home to take care of her dad every night, she struggles to figure out how to put her life back together.

Haley's movies focus on ordinary people making their way through extraordinary circumstances, and All Together Now is no different. And this wouldn't even be the first film Haley tackled that focused on the healing power of music. In 2018, he scored a critical hit with Hearts Beat Loud, a movie starring Nick Offerman as a record store-owning single dad who tries to connect with his daughter by starting a band with her. Nor is this his first movie adapted from a novel: in 2020, All The Bright Places — based on the novel of the same name — premiered on Netflix, and portrayed an emotionally affecting story of two young people finding support and love in each other as they struggle to overcome their difficult pasts.

Big things keep happening for Haley, too. In July 2020, he was announced as the director of Summer Loving, a long-awaited prequel to the classic musical Grease. A movie that brings young people together in a fun, funny, moving, and musical story? Well, Brett Haley is just the pitch perfect choice.