When life becomes stagnant, the temptation is to escape to greener pastures for a fresh start. Party Hard, written by Stephen T. Canada and director William Nicholas Clay, considers that maybe the answer is not found in running away.
After a bad break-up, Chandler (Hunter Bolton), looking for that fresh start, relocates from Columbia, South Carolina, to Charleston. All he finds is loneliness. The film opens with Chandler returning to his hometown for one night and questioning whether his move was the right decision.
Immediately he hooks up with his longtime, weekend party friends, the loose-cannon Jules (Brian Forbes), and the laid-back rocker Ty (Ty Rowe). The trio plans to celebrate Chandler’s return by bar hopping, heavy drinking, and partying hard. Deep down, it’s not his friends that are the priority of his return, but his ex-girlfriend Lauren (Giulia Marie Dalbec), the reason he moved in the first place.
The story of Party Hard plays out like a music documentary of a single night of partying. Clay takes us on a journey through his hometown of Columbia, jumping from one hot spot to the next. At each stop, misadventure occurs, forcing Chandler and crew to get real with one another, but this time as adults.
“…returning to his hometown for one night and questioning whether his move was the right decision.”
Chandler’s story is only half the movie. The other half spotlights the local bands and night scene of Columbia. Each stop features either a fantastic local rock band or stand-up comedian, including an impressive performance by Ty Rowe. It’s here that Party Hard becomes more of a nostalgic look at the filmmakers’ hometown, being a young adult, and having fun as it all starts to fade with age.
Considering the extreme low-budget the filmmakers had, the final product is an impressive accomplishment. There’s a great deal of guerrilla filmmaking going on. Cameras float around our crew like a fly on the wall, maybe not capturing the greatest angles but working well within the physical constraints. There is a sense that the director had to rush in with quick set-up, shoot and then hightail it out of there. You do what you have to do to tell your story.
It’s hard not to understand that Party Hard is very much a personal story for its filmmakers. It is indicative of the fun and friendly atmosphere of the production while still maintaining a professional look and feel to the film. Bolton, Forbes, and Rowe have great chemistry as friends. It comes across in their very loose, casual performances. They go on outrageous adventures without going over-the-top wacky. The city and nightlife of Columbia is definitely a star, and its character comes out in music, comedy, and partying.
With the idea of transitioning into adulthood in mind, Clay and Canada’s Party Hard feels very much like their last hurrah as hooligans roaming the streets of Columbia. You may be taken aback by the movie as it’s not a traditional story — less a straightforward narrative, more a musical odyssey of friendship and growing up. I can’t help but think about the final late-night final moments of American Graffiti.
"…like a music documentary of a single night of partying."