Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2013 Whistler Film Festival. For more information visit whistlerfilmfestival.com and follow WFF on Twitter at @whisfilmfest.
Afterparty is a collaborative effort of exciting talented actors/filmmakers based out of Vancouver, BC. Sociable Films’ mantra is to “Make movies sociably.” The cast and crew are experienced, vibrant and represent some of the best Canada has to offer. Afterparty is their first full-length feature film and they produced the film with a story framework and no actual script. Some may call it crazy, others may applaud the bold decision to create an experimental film like this. Make no mistake, the entire cast was well prepared and must have remained incredibly disciplined during the shooting of this film.
Charlie (Graham Coffeng) gathers his lifelong friends to celebrate after his brother’s wedding. The entire film takes place at a beautiful home equipped with ample space along with a pool, leaving plenty of fun options for a group of 30-somethings. The audience gets an intimate look at their lives. Due to the nature of the film, it does not follow a strict, traditional narrative. Some audiences may see that as a bad thing, but the end result feels genuine, honest and a labor of love. The cast consists of archetypes we all have (or had) in our lives, whether we met them in high school, at work or have known since childhood. A few examples include: loudmouth funny guy who never grew up, career man who is always too busy for the group, drop-dead gorgeous talented woman, and a man constantly being pulled away by his over-protective partner.
The great thing about Afterparty is that nothing feels rehearsed, nothing feels artificial. The fabric of the film feels real, honest and personal.
The audience plays a fly on the wall for the duration of the film. As mentioned previously, the film plays out with a loose narrative. The great thing about Afterparty is that nothing feels rehearsed, nothing feels artificial. The fabric of the film feels real, honest and personal. The cast and crew know each other on a professional and personal level, allowing them to portray their chemistry on screen. Each person is invested, each person appears like they had a great time making this film.
All performers did a fine job but the standout performances come from: Nicholas Carella, Christina Sicoli and Graham Coffeng. Carella plays Bruce, the obnoxious guy who hardly says the right thing. Carella is quick on his feet and delivers some of the biggest laughs in the film. Some of his jokes are obvious, maybe even telegraphed but his execution is spot on and his humor pays dividends. Moon (Sicoli) is an aspiring writer who shares a hysterical bit of writing with the group. Sicoli gave it her all and one could argue she’s the funniest in the film. We’ll take the safe route and call it a draw. The most heartfelt moments come from Charlie (Coffeng). Director Michelle Ouellet did a wonderful job extracting a powerful performance from Coffeng and an exceptional performance from Ali Liebert. There is one scene in particular with Coffeng and Liebert that will move the audience. It’s a well-directed, well-performed scene in which the stars aligned (pun intended).
The topics of each conversation come from the heart from all involved. At times it’s easy to forget the actors are feeding off of each other’s improvisational energy. With the technique comes a few rough moments when a scene feels ad-libbed and less structured. There is one scene in particular when a performer breaks character and has to turn away from the camera.
Let’s change gears for a moment. Because Afterparty was shot without a script, the film suffers in the beginning and sporadically through the film. The free structure leaves little room for exposition that can work with great care and precision. The distraction of little exposition with less room for character development may frustrate some audiences. We live in a world where some audiences need the filmmaker to beat them over the head. From a critical standpoint, too much exposition can be a bad thing, too little can be an exercise in frustration. It’s a tough balance and it takes a while to ease into the film and stop trying to put the pieces together. When you think about it, it’s not like lifelong characters would exchange dialogue to only serve the exposition machine.
The topics of each conversation come from the heart from all involved. At times it’s easy to forget the actors are feeding off of each other’s improvisational energy.
One can only imagine how challenging it was to make this film. Michelle Ouellet directed the hell out of this film. It’s clear she had a vision of what she wanted this film to become and she chose the right people to do the job. Afterparty feels so true, so sincere and it’s a fun ride. As I mentioned in my Whistler Film Fest preview, this is an exciting time for independent films. We live in a world where terrific films can be made on a micro budget and are more accessible in this digital age. Independent films allow creative filmmakers to collaborate and exercise freedom and flexibility.
Afterparty is a fantastic film with an ensemble cast that poured a lot of love into the film. Due to the wide range of characters there is something in there for everyone. Some may relate closer to the man trapped in structure, others may relate closer to the quirky creative funny woman. Afterparty delivers a lot of laughs and some moving heartfelt moments. If you’re craving structure with a clear beginning, middle and end this film may not be for you. If you’re looking for a good time, bring some friends and enjoy an unflinching look at what it’s like once you round the corner beyond your 30s. We look forward to future projects from Sociable Films.
[notification type=”star”]70/100 ~ GOOD. Afterparty is a fantastic film with an ensemble cast that poured a lot of love into the film. Due to the wide range of characters there is something in there for everyone. [/notification]