Originally posted on Elements of Madness.
Storytelling is essential. It’s one of the easiest ways to communicate our values, express our beliefs, and process our experiences. Even our 280-character tweets are a form of storytelling, and many of us couldn’t make it a single day without a little micro-storytelling on social media. While it’s natural for us to jump into a detailed account of our own experiences, it’s not as natural to stop and listen to a different perspective. Movies and TV shows can give us the opportunity to explore other perspectives by replaying the same event from different points of view, the results of which can be comedic, horrific, or totally mind-blowing. In the case of The Get Together, we get to experience a Friday night party from the perspective of four very different twenty-somethings: an outcast who wasn’t really invited, a nervous guy trying to plan the perfect proposal, a career-driven student who returns to her hometown for the first time in months, and a wannabe musician who’s wondering if his dreams might be too big.
This nostalgic flick from director Will Bakke tells four interconnected stories that highlight the best and worst parts of becoming an adult. There’s August (Courtney Parchman), who’s barely getting by as a rideshare driver while her roommate and only friend, McCall (Luxy Banner), has made it in the city with a high-paying job and snooty work-friends. Then, there’s Damien (Jacob Artist) and his girlfriend Betsy (Johanna Braddy), who have flown in from New York to visit Betsy’s family. What Betsy doesn’t know is that Damien has an elaborate proposal in the works, and she effectively ruins his plans when she accepts a spontaneous party invitation. Finally, there’s Caleb (Alejandro Rose-Garcia), who’s coming to terms with the fact that his band won’t be together much longer, and he’s the only member without a backup plan. Although they run in different circles, these four young adults all end up at the same house party one night, and their brief interactions affect them in unlikely ways.
The Get Together is divided into three parts (Damien and Betsy share a section) that retell the events of the party from four unique perspectives. With meticulous cinematic storytelling, the movie highlights the small details that connect these four stories and illustrates how our actions affect others in ways we could never imagine. The film gives us the perfect opportunity to “zoom out,” reminding us that everyone we see is in the middle of their own complex story (that girl who spilled her drink on you might be having a really rough night, so take it easy on her). However, on a big-picture level, August’s story sticks out because she isn’t emotionally connected with Damien, Betsy, and Caleb, who all know each other and directly impact each other’s lives. The story rounds out in the end, but August’s section is an outlier that makes everything feel a bit unbalanced.
With four unique leads who each have their own side of the story to tell, things move fast in The Get Together. Many people today find that they just don’t have the attention span to sit through a feature-length movie, preferring TV episodes with condensed plot arcs and faster narrative gratification. By using short “chapters,” The Get Together maintains a fast pace and makes it easy for us to pay attention. The downside of this structure is that it doesn’t leave a lot of time for nuanced character development. Each character has a strong arc overall, but the script tries to pack their complex personalities and backstories into short bits of dialogue that come on too strong.
Still, the talented cast successfully works their way around the awkward dialogue hiccups with an endearing charm. Each of the four leads has a commanding screen presence that keeps us interested in their stories. They also give the film a special edge because they each take such a different approach to their character. As Damien, Artist starts with a quiet panic that builds to a comedic frenzy, while Parchman (August) approaches her role head-on, diving into unabashed comedy from the beginning. The film is also full of dynamic supporting characters who add rich layers to the unique structure, making us wonder about all the other individual stories that are unraveling at the party. Bakke rounds up the usual cast of coming-of-age characters, including Betsy the “princess,” Damien the “jock,” and Lucas (Chad Werner) the comedic relief who can’t take social cues. Despite the fact that we’ve seen similar characters before, the cast keeps these characters fresh and original.
The Get Together is jam-packed with comedic highs and bittersweet lows, but the overall emotional arc is just right. Each character is connected by the troubles of growing up and the confusion of early adulthood, and there’s a little something for everyone. It’s nostalgic but not overdone, happy but not unrealistic. While not a perfect film, it’s charming from start to finish, setting the scene with a fun, nostalgic tone at a memorable party where there’s room for everyone.
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"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."