I am well aware that this film was aimed at an audience much younger than I. I don’t care! Meaning I have been known to really enjoy teen films. That is if they have the proper combination of angst, humour, and intelligence. You might be thinking that I am not being overly demanding, but you would be surprised at how many teen films that I sit down to watch and they end up being total disasters. The good ones are few and far between. The First Time by Jonathan Kasdan (In the Land of Women) is one of the good ones.
Dave (Dylan O’Brien – from television’s Teen Wolf) is not your typical teenage guy. He is considerate, romantic, intelligent, and likes a good conversation. Like most guys of this ilk he is basically overlooked by teenage girls on a romantic level. The sting of that is lessened by the fact that only one teenage girl is even on his radar, so he doesn’t really notice. Dave has had feelings for Jane (Victoria Justice – from television’s Victorious) forever. They are friends, but she does not see him as a romantic possibility. Dave wants to change that.
In the alley behind a house where a party is taking place Dave is practicing a speech. Not school related, this speech is what he wants to say to Jane so she knows how he feels about her. Dave is obviously nervous. He is caught in the act by Aubrey (Britt Robertson – Dan in Real Life, Scream 4), a girl who goes to another school. After teasing him a little the two begin to have a conversation there in the alley. Sparks fly even though she has a boyfriend (James Frecheville – Animal Kingdom) and he is head over heels about Jane.
Over the course of the weekend the attraction between the two young people grows though each has hesitations about starting something and even how to go about it. This will sure be a 48 hour period to remember.
Coming of age romantic comedies are a dime a dozen. You cannot spit in a video store (though I would not recommend trying it) without hitting one. It is a tricky genre. You have to have the right amount of missteps, comedy, angst, and witty dialogue. It is a sometimes volatile formula and unless you have exactly the right amounts of each then it could explode in your face. Or, more accurately, make no money at the box office. I’m not sure that this small film made any money though its quality is not why.
First of all, the two young leads are attractive, decent actors and have good chemistry. Dylan O’Brien makes Dave so cute and sensitive that you want to eat him up with a spoon. As a young man taking his first awkward steps in romance he is so gawky and unsure of himself that it makes him that much more attractive. His co-lead is Britt Robertson and she is the perfect counterpart. Easily she plays the intelligent yet unsure of what she wants to do in life girl. She is also sexy without it overwhelming everything else. Britt is really is able to convey all the subtle little things that are going on during all the conversations her character and Dave have. Bottom line is that you root for these two to end up together. They make you care.
There is humour involved, but it isn’t the clutch your stomach with tears in your eyes kind of laughter. It is a kinder gentler sort of humour. Again it is steeped in realism.
What really elevated the film was the writing which was done by the director Jonathan Kasdan. He is the son of director Lawrence Kasdan of Body Heat, The Big Chill and Wyatt Earp fame. Jonathan has inherited his father’s skill with really showcasing the dialogue and plot of a film. He seems to understand that it is the root where everything springs out from. The conversations between the two teens seemed so realistic that they really draw you in.
-Previews of Sony Blu-ray Disc, Now Is Good, Kill For Me, The Confession, Abel’s Field, Playing for Keeps