Thursday, November 5, 2020

18 to Party - Movie Review

The Movie: 18 to Party

The Director: Jeff Roda

The Cast: Alivia Clark, Tanner Flood, James Freedson-Jackson, Oliver Gifford, Nolan Lyons, Sam McCarthy, Ivy Miller, Taylor Richardson, Erich Schuett

The Story: It's 1984 and outside a small-town nightclub, a group of 8th graders gather, grappling with a spate of recent suicides, UFO sightings, their absentee parents, and each other.

The Review:
This movie is very much inspired by early 1980's John Hughes films although with a very different vibe and texture. The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles have a fairy tale quality to them that has a heightened reality mostly for the sake of comedy. Jeff Roda's take on the teen comedy finds it's soul in how this particular group of kids communicates which is very authentic and age appropriate. There are arguments and dreams and a bit of philosophizing although none of it ever gets too deep or too far over the top.

The even temperament that Roda keeps the movie centered in allows the characters to breathe and grow and interact in interesting ways although it also keeps the peaks and valleys at a minimum as well. There are a couple major flash points in the story although I felt like I was always in danger of losing interest if things started to falter. Fortunately, the story never does and, I think mostly thanks to the variety of characters and their interwoven relationships, I enjoyed watching it although I'm not exactly sure what the point of any of it was. Not really saying that's a bad thing.

Thinking more on the meaninglessness of it all, that actually is the point. Roda's story is a slice of life snapshot of some kids from the 80's who are learning as they go along, making mistakes, getting into fights, and trying to figure out how to interact with each other. What they talk about and fight about and dream about are all super important in the moment to them and it's like the world will stop rotating if they don't figure it all out right now. I remember feeling like that at that age about things that meant nothing and it was fun to watch these kids go through that over the course of an evening.

Middle school is a very confusing time as it acts as a transition from adolescence to young adulthood and I feel like Roda absolutely nailed what it's like to be at that stage of life. The early 80's era was also an interesting time for transition as the world was becoming a much smaller place thanks to the introduction of electronic devices like computers and cable television. The movie starts with a heated discussion between two boys about the merits of their respective computers yet we still see the group getting a dose of current events from a newspaper.

The Verdict:
18 to Party is pure nostalgia for people who grew up in that era and a snapshot into what it was like for those that weren't there to experience it. Also, great performances from the entire ensemble cast.

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