Three friends return to their hometown after one of their high school buddies dies in a drowning accident.
“Youth is wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw
With this quote as an introduction, I was expecting a pretentious expose of one man’s thoughts on wasted youth. When the film opens, Dixon climbs out of a van, pot smoke billowing behind him and stumbles off. He eventually makes it to his friends, Mitch and Stan, and the three of them launch eggs at the front of the school. It was at this point that I figured out the “wasted” the title refers to might have multiple meanings.
The film is equal parts Dazed and Confused and Big Chill, as the three leads get together after a friend drowns for his memorial service. The problem with this film is the dialogue rarely reaches the level of either of the movies that influenced it. Kip Pardue, best known for Rules of Attraction, is Mitch, the most successful of the three, attending college with actual dreams and aspirations. Eddie Kaye Thomas, from American Pie, is Stan, the loveable awkward loser, getting dumped early in the movie by his girlfriend. Josh Cooke is Dixon, the worst of the group, always fucked up and refusing to accept his status in life. Dixon was the friend who was there when their friend died and remains bitter and angry at his life in the dead end town.
None of the characters are very interesting and are playing archetypes instead of actual people. The most interesting character is Dixon, and Cooke really rises to the occasion, especially at the end when he talks about how he was there when the friend died, and couldn’t do anything about it.
The film’s story takes on a number of awkward situations, from excessive drug use to sexual deviancy, and moves the film into a darker area than Dazed and Confused even dared. However, where the film works best is showing how the deaths of young people are not accepted by their friends in the way you would expect. When the young men of the movie approach the death of a friend, they leave the memorial service early and instead of mourning and meditating the delicacy of life, they party in honor of their fallen comrade and revert to their former lifestyles.
I had a friend pass away at the young age of sixteen and I remember following the services, we all went out and had a regular night of partying in his name. It wasn’t because we were insincere about our mourning but it was honestly what we believed was best for us to work our way through this. I have heard where people believe the guys in this movie were unrealistic in their reactions to their friend’s death but, for people of this age, it is entirely honest and works well in the movie.
The biggest comparison to Dazed and Confused is the fact that at the end of the film, nothing has changed. There was a death that brought them together again, but we never knew the character and the guys never really talk in great detail about their friend until the very end. Instead, the death just sets up a reunion of sorts between the old friends and follows the high school graduates as they face an uncertain future. When the film ends, they are pretty much where we met them.
The story may feel a bit shallow at points, but so is life. We see these friends at a vulnerable time and follow them as they pass through this difficult period of their young lives. We are allowed to see the funeral towards the end and it is clearly obvious that for writer/director Matt Oates, this is a very personal story. At one point at the service, two girls talk about how this makes them feel they are invincible and could die at any time. The reaction from Stan and Dixon at these two girls, who barely knew the deceased, is telling. When Mitch talks about his mother dying, and admits to never crying, I think the movie really hits home.
Wasted proves to be a nice breakthrough film for Oates. It is a beautifully touching film shot with great style. The acting was average, Pardue and Thomas playing characters we have seen them portray numerous times before, but the true breakout talent was Cooke. His character’s breakdown at the end of the film was a perfect conclusion to the story.
Feature Commentary – The commentary track involves the director, writer and Josh Cooke. The track is high energy and the three are very interesting to listen to. They share antidotes and never just repeat what we are seeing on the screen, instead adding lots of interesting information to the film. This is one of the better tracks I have heard in awhile.
Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary) (06:43) – The commentary track on these scenes pretty much sucks. The director pretty much introduces why the scene was cut (ie: time) and then goes away. The problem is the audio track is silent after this and you can’t hear the scene after the director stops talking. Strange format they chose to use here. There is also a Still Gallery.