DVD Review: Garden Party

Garden Party
Starring Vinessa Shaw, Willa Holland, Ross Patterson, Erik Smith
Written and Directed by Jason Freeland
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 18, 2008

Ever see a movie that you really had no feelings for? A movie that was not good or bad and that you couldn’t make heads or tails out of? Well, if you are interested in having such an experience, by all means grab yourself a copy of Garden Party.

Garden Party is a direct-to-DVD feature from Lionsgate that follows a group ambivalent youngsters in Hollywood. There is 15-year-old April (Willa Holland), who is trying to escape her broken home and make something of herself but ends up just taking her clothes off for some skivvy photographer. Along the way we meet Nathan (Alexander Cendese), a dancer from Wisconsin who may or may not be gay; Sammy (Erik Smith), a musician on the rise; Todd (Richard Gunn), an artist; and Sally St. Clair (Vinessa Shaw), who grows weed in her house and sell houses for a living. They all have nothing in common but the dream to make it big in LA LA Land.

Written and directed by Jason Freeland, this movie is neither good nor bad. I just didn’t really care enough about it to like it or hate it. The plot is paper thin, and the characters just never go anywhere. They never evolve and pretty much just stay the same boring uninteresting people they were when the movie started. When April runs away from home only to pose nude for internet pictures, there is not enough information about her to care about her well being and when you realize just how little she has going for her personality-wise, you couldn’t care less about her.

The same rings true for Sammy. He could be considered “successful,” but he reaches his goals so quickly and without hardship that it is hard to relate to him or feel good for him. And I may have lived in New York all my life but the last time I checked, LA should be littered with gay actors in the closet so why is it so hard for Freeland to write a realistic one? Nathan is such a one dimensional gay person he seems more shy and timid more than anything else and the dance scene he has with another guy in a club? If you showed me that scene by itself, I would have thought the film was a farce.

The cast, filled completely with a bunch of unknowns and a few actors you may have seen in bigger movies, are appealing enough but with this script, they do not have much to work with. Their characters display two or more emotions at best and just when they seem to be breaking out of their uninteresting shells, dialogue like “I have been in the dark so long, I just need some light” comes out of their mouths, sending the movie back down to earth.

The only bright spot of the whole film is the singing by Erik Smith. The songs are not deep by any means, but Smith’s voice is pretty good and carries the generic tunes to another level but even he can’t save this movie.

Trying to do my best to find a silver lining to my experience, I went online to learn more about the film. It turns out the title of the film is in reference to the parties people usually throw in Los Angeles. Attended by many up and coming actors, these parties were the place where all he actors shared their experiences in Hollywood, both good and bad. It was through these parties that Freeland came up with the film but very little, if any, of this idea is evident in the film. Perhaps the film would have been more effective if they were a series of short movies strung together by the theme of making it big in Hollywood but the film is what it is.

Garden Party is not a very good film. The characters are bland and boring and the writing is decent at best. Those who like independent movies that showcase bland young people moping around and doing nothing would no doubt like this movie but this movie is not my cup of tea. I wouldn’t invite anyone to this Garden Party.

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