Waiting. But for what? Jeff Roda’s 18 to Party is all about waiting. It is the kind of waiting we have all experienced—waiting for life.
Set in 1984, we spend an afternoon and evening with a group of eighth graders outside a local teen nightclub. But they can’t go in until all the older kids get in. So they are banished to behind the building to wait. This cohort, usually a group of seven with a couple of others who come and go, are familiar with each other. Some are friends, some not. As they evening goes on they talk about recent UFO sightings that have their parents concerned, about fooling around, about the older kids in the front parking lot, and about the number of teen deaths that have affected the community in the last year, including suicides. The discussions range from superficial to serious.
The main catalyst for deeper discussion is Lanky, one of the come-and-go characters. Lanky has been out of the main school. He is in a special program as he deals with the death of his brother (one of the teen suicides). His manic assertions of how great it is in that program belie a deep pain that is just below the surface. Because of their relationship with Lanky and his brother, this group is also affected by the series of deaths in the community.
It might also be noted that there is a distinct lack of adult supervision. This is an age in which many teens were often left to entertain themselves. In theory, all the parents are busy this evening with a meeting about UFOs. But we also get the sense that nights like this are the norm for these kids. In that we are getting a bit of the sociology of Gen-X.
To some extent, this might be seen as Eighth Grade meets The Breakfast Club. It has a sense of potential in the face of awkwardness of Eighth Grade and a bit of the structure of The Breakfast Club. But this group has not yet divided into the well-defined cliques of The Breakfast Club (e.g., jock, goths, nerds, popular, stoners), but we can guess where they will be in a couple of years.
While the premise of the story is that they are waiting to get into the nightclub, there is something existential about this experience. It’s not Waiting for Godot, but 18 to Party taps into the anxiety we have as we wait for the future. By using eighth grade characters, we see a group who really are not yet in charge of anything in their lives. They do not yet know who or what they will be. Their anxiety about getting in to the club is really an expression of hopes and fears they have about life. They are not merely waiting for the club, or even for their lives to begin; they are waiting to become.
18 to Party is available on virtual cinema through local arthouses.
Photos courtesy of Asterion Pictures.