Dance Party, USA
English Title: Dance Party, USA
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Aaron Katz
Runtime: 65 minutes
Volume: American - Independent
Set among a group of high school students in Portland, the film shares the basic arc of Katz's follow-up and better-known film Quiet City (2007). Over the course of a day or two, a male protagonist reaches out to a somewhat mysterious woman and the film ends with them reaching a sweet and rather tentative connection. In the case of Dance Party, USA, our protagonist is the teenaged Lothario Gus, first seen bragging about the sexual conquest of an underage girl to his vacuous friend Bill. Played by Cole Pennsinger, Gus is a guy on the brink of leaving his adolescent persona behind him. His Beavis and Butthead exchanges with Bill are leaving him unfulfilled, and he’s looking for a more real connection than the “hook-ups” he seems able to achieve with ease. One night at a Fourth of July house party, he meets Jessica, sitting alone outside. She’s a friend of his ex, and she’s aware of his reputation. But he sits down and, almost like he’s in a confession booth, he begins to tell her about something he’s done in the recent past, something that was very wrong. Somehow, he feels he can trust her, and after sitting silently through his confession, she lights two sparklers and hands him one. “Do you want to go somewhere?” she asks. Each sees something in the other that no one else has yet seen, and each wants to be that something more than anything else. Gus is actually finding that being a horny teenager is getting in the way of him finding a real connection. Jessica is more of an enigma, but played by the lovely Anna Kavan, she oozes mystery, if not depth.
Later in the film, Gus attempts to make things right for his earlier misdeed, but finds he’s awkward and unsure what to do. And his later exchanges with Bill are frankly hilarious, as he talks about wanting to pursue something creative (photography, painting) and then asks Bill for a hug. There is a lot of dialogue in this film, compared to Quiet City. The exciting thing is to see the drunken sincerity of teens at a beerbash developing into the first halting attempts at full-time adult sincerity. Pennsinger and Kavan both show their vulnerability in different ways. Gus has to escape a persona, albeit one that has served him well for some time, while Jessica has just seemed unimpressed with the quality of the men she’s been around, and is opening herself up for perhaps the first time.
Author of this review: James McNally