What is it about coming of age movies and the 1980s? There have been plenty of movies about growing up in the decades before and after, but the ones set during the 80s seem especially popular. The most recent entry is 18 to Party. The movie is about a group of kids waiting to get into an all ages club. As the group waits, they talk about the things that bring them together and find out what drives them apart. Does it do enough to separate itself from other movies in the genre?
18 to Party may be the first reverse nostalgia movie about the 80s. By definition, nostalgia is the act of looking back on something fondly. Director Jeff Roda seems to be saying something else about the decade. Instead of putting it up on a neon colored pedestal, he almost seems to be throwing a lit match at a box full of Aqua Net.
It is a refreshing look at a time that is often celebrated in film. The film does not look at the period with the same rose tinted glasses many others do. Roda almost seems to be pointing out just how bad the 80s were. While there is nothing negative about 18 to Party, there is a cynicism that makes it almost impossible for someone to argue for the “good old days.”
The real brilliance of the movie is in how it still perfectly paints a picture of growing up. Roda’s film is not so much pessimistic as it is eye opening. There are plenty of movies that paint the 80s with a less than flattering portrayal. They often lean into the politics of the time. 18 to Party delves into politics through the eyes of children. This makes its criticism of the time more relatable. It speaks more in the moment than about it.
Some may find issue with this. The dialogue can be too spot on at times. Though the group are in middle school, they speak like well traveled adults. This is commonly seen in coming of age movies, but it stands out a little more in 18 to Party. Thankfully, the cast does a great job of never making things seem too exaggerated. In particular Tanner Flood as Shel and Ivy Miller as Kira do amazing jobs.
An argument can be made that there are too many coming of age movies set in the 1980s. This is due to the fact that some of the best films of the genre are from and about the time period. 18 to Party is proof there can never be too much of a good thing. Thanks in part to realistic characters and strong storytelling, the movie fits in perfectly with the classics of that era.
‘18 to Party‘ Video Review
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