Florida Film Festival: 18 to Party (2019)

18toparty

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A group of teenagers spend the day waiting to get into a nightclub in this directorial debut of Jeff Roda.

It’s the year 1984. As school is approaching, a group of 8th graders are forced to go into the back. The group includes nerdy Shel, Shel’s crush Amy, music fanatic Missy, bickering Peter and Dean, burly Brad, smart-mouthy Kira, and Lanky, who has been released from juvenile hall and has been considering going back to school. The topics the teens talk about range from UFO sightings to music and Lanky’s release to what’s in store when school is back in session. Along the way, the kids get to realize some crazy truths about each other while they wait to get inside the club.

Jeff Roda has come up with quite a coming of age film that looks to have influences from some of the legendary filmmakers who defined the teen drama. While it is not like the graphically-depicted Kids by Larry Clark, this film is more of a meshing of two iconic “teen drama” filmmakers. It had the depth and drama of a John Hughes film meshed with the realistic work of one Richard Linklater.

The young cast shine in their very eclectic roles. Tanner Flood is the nerdy Shel, who seems to be the most level headed member of the group. Nolan Lyons and Sam McCarthy are sort of like Anthony Rapp’s Tony and Adam Goldberg’s Mike in their role of bickering buddies Dean and Peter. Oliver Gifford’s Brad is the tough big man who seems to have a bit of an issue and takes it out on everyone. He grows tired of all the arguments and bickering. Taylor Richardson’s Missy is a fun character who enjoys her music and has a rival in the big mouth Kira, played by Ivy Miller. Erick Schuett’s James is one of those characters who seems to be just there who doesn’t make much of an impact as some of the others characters, but that’s okay because he still manages to fit in with the group.

Alivia Clark’s Amy is the character you can tell has a crush on Shel of all people, and Shel clearly has feelings for her too, but both are afraid to show their feelings…at least until the third act. James Freedson-Jackson’s Lanky is the wild card of the bunch. Returning from juvie, we learn that his brother had committed suicide and it caused him to go a downward spiral and when we see his return, he seems like he wants to be back on that road to redemption.

A lot of emotions range in the film and that’s a very good thing. We get to see the teens go from getting along to nearly disassembling to eventually getting their stuff together in certain ways. But there are characters who like to start drama for the sake of getting attention. For instance, when Missy tells Dean she is listening to U2, Kira has to start trouble by saying The Alarm is better than U2 (For the record, this reviewer likes both bands equally, and I’ve had the pleasure to speak with Alarm lead singer Mike Peters a few years ago). Then there’s Brad, who at one point lets his issue take over so much he forces Peter and Dean to go from verbal arguments to practically throwing fisticuffs. Once we learn about these two’s issues, it’s clear they don’t know how to respond and thus, resort to anger. However, soon enough, as it seems to be the case, hopefully everything gets resolved peacefully.

If John Hughes and Richard Linklater had a love child, it would be 18 to Party. A wonderful coming-of-age film from Jeff Roda. The young cast of characters show their eclectic manners to a tee and we may just be looking at the next generation of young stars with this film.

WFG RATING: A

An Asterion Pictures production in association with Cahill Brothers. Director: Jeff Roda. Producers: Andrew Cahill, Nikola Duravcevic, Emily Ziff Griffin, and Stephanie Marin. Writer: Jeff Roda. Cinematography: Gris Jordana. Editing: Kate Williams.

Cast: Tanner Flood, Oliver Gifford, Nolan Lyons, Sam McCarthy, Alivia Clark, Taylor Richardson, Ivy Miller, James Freedson-Jackson, Erich Schuett, Ashling Doyle, Enzo Cellucci.

If you are in the Orlando area, you can see this film on August 14 at 5:30pm at the Enzian Theater (1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751). For more information on this and other film festivals, go to https://www.floridafilmfestival.com

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