Dance Party, USA

English Title: Dance Party, USA

Country of Origin: USA

Director: Aaron Katz

Runtime: 65 minutes

Language: English

Year: 2006

Volume: American - Independent

Jessica and Gus, two apathetic teenagers, drift aimlessly from one day to the next until they meet each other. They make a tenuous and fleeting connection when Gus confides in Jessica about his dark past.


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