I’ve always been a sucker for the “ It all takes place in one night” sub-genre of movies.
One of the greatest examples of course is Richard Linklater’s coming of age masterpiece Dazed and Confused. The set up for Jeff Roda’s 18 To Party was off to a promising start as far as delivering the experience these films typically offer, but as the film became more crowded with sedated characters of similar personality traits, the less interested or engaged I became with the conversations they would have. That’s a huge problem that relies completely on just that.
As they waxed soliloquies outside a nightclub in 1984 about mostly suicidal conspiracies involving their classmates and their parent’s infatuations with recent UFO gatherings, the apathetic energy that radiated from these eighth graders began rubbing off on this viewer who began hoping desperately a character would come in to play with just a little bit of charm and optimism to offset the rest. As the loose narrative unfolds like an improvisational stage production the natural performances of these newcomers work in its favor if only they had more interesting things to say. For example, Taylor Richardson had a stand-out moment as her character passionately defended U2 amongst one of her peers in a memorable dialogue exchange.
Some of the musical choices were inspired as well, but still, fall flat in retrospect when there’s no energy in the scenes that accompany them. This film is obviously inspired by the classic work of John Hughes and Richard Linklater as mentioned before but never catches any real fire the way those films did because it just doesn’t appear to be on the page. The saving grace of this picture could have been to be rewarded with a glimpse of this nightclub we’ve been waiting to get in alongside these kids. Perhaps that wasn’t the filmmaker’s intent, but most of the time I felt myself wondering if the intent was to come out feeling as bummed out and frustrated as these kids.
Watch the trailer: