What does it say about us if we still carry the emotional baggage of high school ten or twenty years on? This idea is explored in Brad Riddell and Sanford Sternshein’s comedy Later Days. Mike (David Walton) and Pam (Majandra Delfino) are high school sweethearts far removed from adolescence. Today, Pam is a successful corporate executive who works tirelessly for her high-income salary. Mike, on the other hand, takes care of the kids.
Pam has been MIA from the family for a very long time as she attempts to close the biggest deal of her career. So in celebration of this monumental occasion, Mike gets all their high school friends and family together to celebrate the deal’s closing with a 1980s-inspired surprise party. The problem is Pam hasn’t closed yet, and her demanding boss needs her to work through the night to finish it. Tired and frustrated, Pam just wants to complete the deal, while a desperate Mike spills the beans to Pam that her friends are waiting for her to make an appearance. Finally, he convinces her to go wearing her original, altered, very 80s prom dress.
In Later Days, writers/directors Riddell and Sternshein find ways to make their version of the high school reunion story feel both fresh and familiar at the same time. Familiar is the spectrum of high school cliques that represent Mike and Pam’s friends from long ago. However, instead of just inviting close friends, the Facebook event was made public and essentially turned into a full-on reunion. Think of it as if The Breakfast Club grew up and became somewhat responsible adults.
“…gets all their high school friends and family together to celebrate the deal’s closing…problem is Pam hasn’t closed yet…”
The comedy of the picture comes in the antics during the reunion. It’s all fun and very silly in nature. Bringing the crew back together for this occasion allows Mike and Pam’s friends to relive their teens with a rockin’ 80s soundtrack, old-style ballbusting, former flames, TP adventures, and passive-aggressive gossiping now aided by texting and a fateful use of screen-sharing.
Much of the humor wouldn’t have worked if Riddell and Sternshein didn’t bring in a solid group of actors, many of whom I’ve never heard of. The comedy is very 80s in tone and depth, and the entire cast truly embraced their tropey characters and owned them. Sadly, this sense of character doesn’t always happen in indie comedies. Speaking Also, I loved seeing Tim Kazurinsky on screen again.
The heart of the story is the work/home conflict between Mike and Pam. Flipping centuries of gender roles, Later Days tackles the tension of the successful businesswoman in Pam and the neglected househusband, Mike. Wisely, this narrative is not about debating gender roles, but it’s about family. Pam’s desire to succeed has put her family in second place in her job. Mike loves raising their kids but seriously considers the opportunity of a high school coaching job offered his way.
Later Days is a sweet, funny, and nostalgic look at growing up. Also, being an 80s teen is not a requirement to have fun at this reunion.
"…a sweet, funny, and nostalgic look at growing up."