Dance Party USA: Full of Reprehensible Slack-tivities.



In the director’s commentary on the DVD of Dance Party USA, one of the filmmakers talks about the problem of keeping the viewer interested in and sympathetic toward the main character, whose behavior is so reprehensible. It seems that the filmmakers had their hands a bit too full with this well-placed concern. They were never quite able to back-pedal fast enough for me to care about their main character. I spent the better part of two hours backing away from him, and hoping that every character in the movie would do the same.

I’ve had about all I can stomach of these “Slackavettes,” “Mumblecore” films, where characters long for deeper connections with each other, and yet seem to want even more to remain uninspired, intoxicated, and detatched from their own lives. I got 5 minutes into another film, LOL before shutting it off. The main character there passes a strip-tease video of his own girlfriend around on the internet after she tells him it is for his eyes only. The culmination of Dance Party’s moral quandry involving a drunk young man raping a passed-out underaged woman is a climactic, resounding “whatever.”

I heard a writing instructor once say that you can never underestimate your reader’s capacity for gossip. But a recipe that is mostly baking powder isn’t much of a recipe. These films are built on a rickety, gossipy structure that doesn’t allow for much else of substance to hang upon them. Most information is passed between characters via gossip, which is the closest thing you get to meaningful communication. It is difficult for me to feel anything remotely close to sympathy for characters who want their romance, their trust, their freedom, when they also want to eat it all too.

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