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'18 to Party' Review

LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic Writer/director Jeff Roda’s “18 to Party” is set in 1984 in Upstate NY. A group of 8th graders have gathered together outside a local club, hoping to get in. They all have different personalities and represent various cliques. Some are more “popular” than others. Some have more confidence than others. What they each seem to have in common is a difficult family life.

The nine kids talk about what they’re dealing with at home, their opinions on what’s going on in the news and in their town — which has become notorious for teen deaths, many by suicide.

“18 to Party” is reminiscent of several 80s-90s coming-of-age dramedies, most notably 1985’s “The Breakfast Club”, which is one of my least favorite of that or any decade. Here, however, Roda restrains his very talented group of young actors. We don’t get the typical self-aware, over acting that’s all-too-common in the genre. And the topics discussed are viable, grounded and palatable (except for town’s apparent obsession with UFOs).

By nature, there’s a lot of dialogue, some of it too rapid-fire. And it doesn’t take long to figure out how many of the scenes will play out. The strength of “18 to Party” comes from the cast and the intentions with the commentary.

Those who grew-up in a similar environment will certainly appreciate how well Roda captures time and place. And younger viewers will identify with the film’s themes of finding who you are, accepting someone for their differences and understanding what ‘belonging’ really means.

“18 to Party” is a commendable addition to the adolescent angst genre — and worth the time, no matter your age.

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LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic

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