>> Sunday, November 15, 2009
USA/C-105m./Dir: James Francis Flynn/Wr: James Francis Flynn/Cast: Jonathan Dicks (Nathan), Noah Applebaum (Justin), Christopher Clark Cowan (Dom), Brandon Lea (Bob), Laure-Lyne Zbinden (Scud), James Francis Flynn (Skydive), Darren Bailey (Professor Pete), Hannah Phelps (Natalie) and Elizabeth Laidlaw (President Garlin)
Sometimes a film grabs hold of you unexpectedly and you find yourself enjoying it a lot more than you had initially expected. Such is the case with Eastern College, a small, independently-produced first feature by James Francis Flynn about four friends spending their last summer together in a college town. It’s a low budget, coming-of-age comedy/drama, and it has the look and feel of a homemade project. The writing meanders at times, some of the editing is haphazard, and the inexperienced cast occasionally comes across as less-than-professional. Still, about a half hour into Eastern College, I fell under its spell, largely because it is one of the most realistic depictions of life in a college town ever committed to film.
Eastern College tells the story of four art school grads--Nathan (the sensitive one), Justin (the funny one), Dom (the Casanova), and Bob (the animal)--who move into the home of their recently deceased Dean during the summer after graduation. Their plans are to drink, chase girls, drink, party, and drink before their inevitable separation. However, plans change somewhat when Nathan (Jonthan Dicks) gets involved in a fight to prevent the new university president (Elizabeth Laidlaw) from closing their beloved art school. At the same time, other members of the group start to look more seriously at their female companions and their future career prospects. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for boozing.
James Francis Flynn based Eastern College on his own university experiences, and it is in the depiction of college town life that the film excels. So many details are dead on--red cup parties, friends crashing on the couch for weeks at a time, garbage-strewn vehicles, unexpected bed companions, and lots and lots of binge drinking. Best of all is the depiction of the friend’s final party, in which the group ends up in the basement, swapping stories of their favorite moments from their college days. The scene is bound to bring back pleasant memories for anyone who ever spent time living on or around a college campus.
However, not all of the writing rings as true and some of it just comes across as lazy. Setting the movie during the summer and about graduates seems a bit of a cheat to avoid having to depict the classroom aspects of college; and unless the characters are independently wealthy, someone should have been depicted holding a part-time job. Worst of all is the way the university president is written. She comes across as a barely one-dimensional stock villain, and she is given no motivations for her behavior. It also must be said that the movie often seems to think it is funnier than it actually is. Still despite these reservations and some directorial clumsiness common to debut films, Eastern College is worth checking out, especially for those who have fond, booze-soaked memories of their college days.
Drinks Consumed--Vodka, beer, bourbon, gin, absinthe, and unnamed cocktails
Intoxicating Effects--Vomiting, stumbling, the giggles, soused sex, slurred speech, passing out, drunk driving, public urination, and unintentional defecation
Potent Quotables--SCUD: Hey, let’s do it.
DOM: I’m sorry?
SCUD: You know, “it.”
DOM: How? There’s people…
SCUD: Gawd, forget about it. (She takes a drink.)
DOM: Yeah, see, drunk is what’s goin’ on.
SCUD: No, no. I am not drunk. I am just trying to keep my liver limber.
Video Availability--Eastern College DVD (R Squared Films) is now available. You can also get a taste HERE.
Similarly Sauced Cinema--While nowhere near as realistic as Eastern College, National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) is the king of alky college flicks.