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Review: Dance Party, USA

Dance Party, USA is attuned to teenspeak frequencies, but its title is some kind of presumptuous.

Dance Party, USA
Photo: SXSW

Writer-director Aaron Katz’s Dance Party, USA is attuned to teenspeak frequencies, but its title is some kind of presumptuous. The opening scene begins where Kids ended, then followed by a difficult pill: Gus (Cole Pensinger) shooting the shit with his best bud Bill (Ryan White) about a pair of breasts (“firm as fuck”), his dick (“hard as fuck”), and a 14-year-old girl with a yogurt-like substance that spilled out of her hoo-hah. Charming. There’s no doubt that guy-guys talk like this, but Katz is overzealous about setting up Gus as a piece of crass Cro Magnon teen meat who could stand to get slapped upside the head. Jessica (Anna Kavan) dutifully obliges outside a party, cutting Gus down to size by rejecting his advances even before he’s tried anything. Humbled, the kid relates an incident from his past that has weighed on his conscious and suddenly he becomes deep. A film of easy set ups and resolutions, Dance Party, USA is best when observing how crisis is metabolized. The actors are great, but they don’t just nail that teenage language of “likes” and “whatevers” that remains elusive to anyone old enough to remember the Nixon administration, they invest in it. Kavan is good as the patient soundboard, but it’s Pensinsger who soars, exuding a pained sense of vulnerability in scene after scene, including a grippingly sustained confrontation with the victim of his past indiscretion. Katz follows Gus Van Sant’s footsteps from time to time but his images strike some uniquely expressive notes. Like Gus, who forces his friend Bill to give him a hug in one scene, he’s devoted to cutting through the bullshit that clogs the passageways between teenage experience and adulthood.

Cast: Anna Kavan, Cole Pensinger, Ryan White, Sarah Bing, Natalie Buller, Brendan McFadden, Chad Hartigan, Lorraine Bahr, Bryna Smith Director: Aaron Katz Screenwriter: Aaron Katz Running Time: 66 min Rating: NR Year: 2006 Buy: Video

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