Dance Party, Usa

2006, Movie, NR, 66 mins


Taking its name from — but having nothing to do with — a cheesy but beloved syndicated dance show of the mid-1980s (it's where Kelly Ripa got her start), this dramatically simple but emotionally complex hourlong debut feature from filmmaker Aaron Katz follows two Portland-area teenagers through a pivotal Fourth of July holiday. Jessica (Anna Kavan) and Gus (Cole Pennsinger) are both 17 and attend the same high school, and even though they have mutual friends — Jessica's best friend, Christie (Sarah Bing), had a fling with Gus' buddy, Bill (Ryan White) — they've never properly met. Jessica, however, has heard enough about Gus' bad behavior, much of which is fabricated by Gus himself, who prides himself on being a jerk when it comes to girls and sex, so she's already formed an opinion. But when they run into each other at a Fourth of July party, Gus and Jessica open themselves up in unexpected ways: Jessica plainly tells him what she's been led to believe about his character, while Gus confesses to having done something terrible at a party a while back. Clearly touched by both her honesty and her refusal to judge him any further, Gus attempts to make amends for what he's done. Anyone who hasn't tried to hold a conversation with a teenager lately will probably find Katz's elliptical, meandering dialogue maddening, but it's spot-on and, in a sense, poignant: Like the characters in the films of Andrew Bujalski (FUNNY HA HA, MUTUAL APPRECIATION), they talk and talk but are never quite able to articulate what they're thinking or feeling. And they feel quite a bit. The fact that neither Gus nor Jessica turn out be exactly the kind of person he or she is assumed to be seems like an obvious point to make, but keeping yourself open to other people is one of the most important lessons a young person can learn in life, and one that all too often goes untaught. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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Dance Party, Usa
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