This is the Year proves that a movie can be incredibly enjoyable even if it makes glaring mistakes. It is days before high school graduation and Josh (Lorenzo Henrie) is committed to winning over the girl of his dreams. When Zoey (Alyssa Jirrels) unexpectedly reveals she will be suddenly moving to Los Angeles, Josh has to move fast. Thankfully, a big music festival is just around the corner.
It is a familiar premise that everyone understands. Unrequited high school love is the same every decade. To underscore the tone, the film starts with a Fast Times at Ridgemont High type movie the characters in This is the Year love. Audience expectations have been set, and while they are not particularly high, a good time is not out of the question.
This is the Year follows the formula to a fault. It is clear within the first minute who Josh will end up with. There is the smart mouth friend (who is surprisingly not sex obsessed), one last road trip, and the upcoming prom. There is a comfort in what the movie provides. When things do deviate from the norm, it is a refreshing. For example, the prom is a part of the first acts then quickly forgotten. This is intentional on the part of the writing and is done in a way that is seamless and enhances the story.
This is the Year is filled with likable characters. Josh is the perfect oblivious lovestruck teenager who will do anything to capture the attention of his dream girl. For her part, Zoey is a great character. There is not the normal curve seen in these types of movies where she is unattainable and annoying at first but eventually wins the audience over. She remains a consistently fun character.
The supporting cast may be even better. Molly steals most of the scenes she is in. This is in no small part due to an outstanding performance from Vanessa Marano. Her comedic timing is fantastic and she is a highlight of This is the Year. Jake Short is also great as Josh’s friend Mikey. He has some of the best one liners in the entire film. The two are never just background characters.
In the end, this may be the biggest issue with This is the Year. All of the characters are too pleasing. The story lacks the tension of “Who will he choose?” or “Will she or won’t she?” This leads to a couple of problems. One, there is no real reason to root for Josh. He is a nice enough guy, but if he gets what he wants, another nice guy gets screwed over. For these types of stories to work, there has to be a clear cut rooting interest.
Even worse, the ending feels unearned. There is no reason for things to turn out how they do and even less for the audience to want it to happen. Is it cute in the way coming of age stories should be? Absolutely. Ironically, it lacks the endearing quality that Molly longs for. This is most obvious in the rushed final act that sees the biggest conundrums of This is the Year solved with passing comments. There is a lot of fun to be had, but the conflict that makes these types of movies memorable is sorely missing.
This is the Year comes to theaters and video on demand September 24
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