METHOD FEST 2020 REVIEW! Adversity builds character. It’s a simple axiom that I’ve come to embrace over the years. It’s the idea that trial and tragedy are unavoidable, but how you handle it makes you a stronger person. It builds character. The death of loved ones, friends, and family is inevitable (especially in these trying times), and it’s the grieving process that builds our character. Writer/director Robyn August walks us down the road of grief in Party With Me.
After losing her father to cancer, Harper (Allison Flanagan) dares herself to venture back into the land of the living by attending her neighbor Paul’s (Justin Hogan) web series wrap party. It doesn’t help that Harper embarrasses herself from time-to-time, but she’s the only one who tends to notice it.
Harper is looking to get past her loss by making connections with others. She’s the personal assistant to artist Kyle (Noah James), who is more than happy to hang out with Harper. There’s also Dusty (Michael J. Henderson), a stand-up comedian looking to find his place on the internet by roaming the street with a brick-wall drape strapped to his back. The trio makes an unlikely pack, but they’ve got each other, and that counts.
The story shows Harper’s attempt to get past her father’s death through distraction. She momentarily finds personal intimacy with a one-night stand and attempts to fill the emptiness and depression either by hanging out with Dusty and Kyle or by numbing her pain with a fine bottle of cheap wine.
“…attempts to fill the emptiness and depression either by hanging…or with a fine bottle of cheap wine.”
What director August essentially does with Harper is place her in a terrarium and allow us to watch and observe her self-destructive behavior. In fear of overstating his intentions, August goes for subtlety. Rather than go the route of Hollywood high drama, Harper’s story is much more grounded, as if this is you or me.
If there’s a healthy way to handle grief, it would be coming together as a community or family and working through our mutual pain. But in Harper’s world, she’s alone. Her mother’s not around, and her friends are not close enough to have known her father, nor do they understand what he meant to her. So she (and we) choose to suffer in silence and deal with the loss her way.
Party With Me is presented as a slice-of-life story. Harper just exists in said terrarium, and we watch and observe her behavior. While the plot may feel like it’s meandering, it never strays too far from the path.
The style of acting lies right between scripted drama and entirely improvised. On the one hand, no one comes across as acting (as in theatrically trained), and on the other, no one is ad-libbing jokes or making sh*t up. The goal is to be real and authentic, and for the most part, it works. At the same time, this style is not everyone’s “cup of tea.” So, fair warning.
As Harper, Allison Flanagan does an amazing job carrying the story. She never overplays the role, which would be easy to do as the role requires high emotion at times, and she handles Harper’s character arc quite well. Robyn August put just enough insight into his story of grief to keep it out of the realm of the Hallmark movie. If I could make one request, as much as I love the film’s overall attempt at authenticity, I would have loved to see the drama pushed a little further, and Harper and friends’ actions pushed a bit further out of my comfort zone. Party With Me is a good story, nonetheless.
Party With Me screened at the 2020 Method Fest.
"…enough insight into his story of grief to keep it out of the realm of the Hallmark movie."