Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Deltopia: Movie Review

A day in the life of high school seniors attending an end of school year epic party. Deltopia is named after the real-life California beach party called Deltopia, and indeed the film opens with a ‘based on true events’ label. The problem with such a label is you’re expecting something interesting or significant to happen, but it looks a lot like every other movie about teens partying, except even harder to get into.   2023

Directed by: Michael Easterling, Jaala Ruffman

Screenplay by: Michael Easterling, Jaala Ruffman

Starring: Luna Blaise, Madison Pettis,
Charlie Gillespie, and Hart Denton

The movie works hard to maintain the 24-hour window that everything fits into, so the only backstory for the main characters comes from their conversations with friends, which most of the time sounds like an exposition solely for the audience’s benefit and not at all like friends actually talking. The dialogue in general is very awkward. It sounds like they’re trying to mix a ‘cool beyond their years’ vibe with a more realistic approach, and it just doesn’t work. The actors do their best with it, but it often sounds jilted and awkward and unnatural.

The four main characters are all played by notable actors; the two most famous actors forming the central pair. Best friends Hannah (Manifest’s Luna Blaise) and Ellery (Madison Pettis) are polar opposites. Hannah is smart and a good student and tends to not take risks; Ellery is looking for the next big party and that’s it. Meanwhile, friends Bones (Hart Denton) and Jack (Julie and the Phantoms’ Charlie Gillespie) are friends because of a similar lot in life, they seem to just hang out instead of wanting to or having any reason to hang out together. Hannah and Jack like each other, except Hannah is only now newly single and neither of them have ever said anything to the other. Their friends are determined to throw them together while their first main mission is to attend Deltopia.

Most teen movies about partying or falling in love will frame it as a comedy, not here. Deltopia sets every scene with a very dramatic score and every conversation is about scoring drugs. Comedy would make this much easier to like but instead they’re going for the melodrama of kids graduating high school. It neither feels realistic nor larger-than-life, it’s a very weird middle ground of kids obsessed with drugs and sex and partying and doing so in a very uninteresting way.

It's not until the last act of the movie when Hannah and Jack are finally in the same room at the same time and can actually have real conversations as all hell breaks loose around them that the movie finally settles down into a story with something more than just drugs. Gillespie and Blaise shine when they’re together but you have a full hour of uncomfortable nonsense to get through first.

I’m probably too far removed from this reality to get much out of Deltopia, but it does have a notable sensibility. Perhaps more in tune for fans of Euphoria.