The 1980’s were packed with pop culture trends and important events in history. Wars ended, walls fell (literally), hair got bigger and music became more digitized. Being a simpler time, cellphones were not yet commonplace and social media would have been viewed as an outlandish concept.
18 To Party shows a group of 8th graders in 1984 as they wait outside of a nightclub, hoping to gain entrance. Throughout a long night of waiting, viewers witness the relationships between the teens, as well as struggles they are each grappling with. While some of the youths experience revelations, others attempt to distract themselves from grief or fear that is consuming their lives at this pinpoint in time.
Director and writer Jeff Roda opens the eyes of anyone who watches the film to how all-consuming the trials and tribulations of life can be for a teenager. Some of the characters experience anxiety that goes along with normal middle school subjects while others are facing much larger issues, such as suicide or living with absentee parents. While some filmmakers brand teenagers as dramatic and selfish, Roda chose to display them in a more loving light, acknowledging that their concerns are valid and not less than that of adults. This is Roda’s directorial debut, and an inspiring one at that.
While the motion picture is successful in many areas, one of its highest achievements comes from the magnificent acting throughout from a young cast. None of the performances are disappointing, and the actors have noticeable on-screen chemistry. Some of the most memorable chemistry is between actress Alivia Clark, playing Amy, and actor Tanner Flood, playing Shel. The two channel the awkwardness that comes along with one’s first romantic efforts as well as the insecurity of being unsure if the feelings are mutual. Their interactions are enjoyable and uncomfortable to watch, and by the end of the picture you may find yourself rooting for the two.
Actors James Freedson-Jackson, playing Lanky, and Oliver Gifford, playing Brad, deliver one of the most heartbreaking moments in the movie. Freedson-Jackson has previously been seen in films such as The Strange Ones and television such as Jessica Jones. In his first feature film, Gifford has previously appeared in television shows such as Manifest and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The two show their true emotions after having recently lost a brother and best friend after evading their feelings earlier in the movie. These young actors do a wonderful job of portraying both denial and grief, and should be applauded for their performances.
Feeding into the time period of the 80’s, the film includes light-hearted subjects such as UFO sightings, Mac versus Microsoft computers, and U2 versus The Alarm. Spectators who lived during this decade will reminisce throughout the 80-minute runtime when they hear a myriad of references or observe the nostalgic fashion choices.
A possible issue with the movie lies in its format. While meaningful and well-done, viewers who prefer an action packed film to a slice-of-life format may grow tired of the picture. Audiences who go into the movie expecting strong acting and not exciting or outrageous action will leave satisfied.
18 To Party cuts to the core of what it means to be human, especially during the transitional phase of growing up. Regardless of your age, you will be able to appreciate the art that Roda has successfully created with this heartfelt love letter to teenagers everywhere, from every decade. We hope to see many more humanizing works from Roda in the near future.
If you would like to watch 18 To Party, keep an eye out for its release to virtual cinemas on November 6th. Both Laemmie for Los Angeles and Alamo On Demand for New York are offering the film. Beyond virtual cinemas, the film will be available for video on demand services on all major platforms beginning December 1st.