By. L.C. Cragg
Jeff Roda’s directorial debut (also screenwriting credit), 18 to Party delivers a well packed duffle bag of adolescent issues. These issues include: bullying, stereotyping, grief, loss, envy, superstitions, social status, violence, peer pressure, musical taste, anger, sexuality and drug use.
Without giving away any plot points, a major theme emerged: How do communities and adolescents deal with or fail to deal with tragic losses? The story’s spine, stays true to the theme. Throughout the film, consistent dramatic tension held my attention, sucking me back to that awkward year of eighth grade. This film delivers important scenes and issues that audiences will want to discuss after viewing, which to me, fulfills the criteria of a great film. Are you still thinking about the film after you’ve watched it? 18 to Party will make you think long after the credits have rolled.
Set in the Ronald Reagan 80’s in a small town, a group of kids are waiting to get into a run-down punk rock club. While waiting they reveal their fears, embarrassments, confusion about their parents, and grief which unfolds in a riveting dramatic way.
At times, the dialogue transitions were a little choppy, but not distracting. The ensemble of actors was very well cast. Kudos to Rodo’s directing for keeping the flow of each scene, while balancing each actors’ interactions.
This film brought my own personal losses to mind, with the often not so consoling wisdom, which is what counselors and mental health professionals say about the people who are suffering. “You never really know what’s going on in someone’s head.” However, this film delivers thoughtful insights into each character’s head.
Based on Roda’s autobiographical experiences, true events, and thorough research, another overarching theme resonates: Trying to figure out who you are, as an adolescent in a world filled with conflict, violence, peer pressure and dysfunctional families can be a painful process. Yet in an adeptly uplifting way, the film delivers messages of unselfishness and the hope that perhaps something bigger and better exists within and beyond this small circle of friends and community.
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