Review: Dramarama

Written and directed by Jonathan Wysocki, in 1994, a closeted teen struggles to part ways with his four high school drama friends at their final murder mystery party before they leave for college. Starring: Nick Pugliese, Zak Henri, Anna Grace Barlow, Nico Greetham, Megan Suri and Danielle Kay.

If you could bottle the atmosphere of a high school drama clique, the result would probably be this film. It translates that extra, hyper spirit of teen drama kids so perfectly and so distinctly in its style. Wysocki must have had a similar high school experience as these characters to hit the nail so sharply on the head. It’s a thematic equivalent of a nerdgasm, in a great way, as Wysocki’s directorial style is clear and utterly consistent. Blending it with the 90s setting creates a succinct balance of quirky, melodramatic, energetic, awkward and the imperfect, clumsy nature of youth.

Wysocki’s writing feels less balanced, positioning itself as a coming out story when that’s not really what it is; in actuality it’s much more centred on changing friendships and a time of keen vulnerability. The story does still work, it keeps the drama flowing at all times with regular injections of wrenches in the works of their farewell party; but it lacks a weight or satisfying feel to take it where it needed to go. Part of that could be attributed to the impression it gives of being framed for a younger audience who can more acutely connect to it. It will hit some nostalgia points for people who can actually remember the nineties but feels like its target viewers likely wouldn’t have been born yet. It touches upon the emotions of coming out but never truly explores the issue, instead focusing on the insecurities of its characters, their fears for the future and the effect that those have on their friendships as they prepare to part ways. Although the murder mystery element was a delightfully geeky addition.

The cast are ideal choices, they all have fairly familiar roles to pay but they each make them their own. They’re a bunch of very individual, strong personalities and together they create a charisma for the film, its charm comes from their chemistry, playful banter and infighting. It’s an ensemble piece but Nick Pugliese does take the lead slightly more than the rest, he’s the centre that joins them all together. It’s almost as if he has a little bit of all the characters within him, representing a much more universal experience of fears of inadequacy and insecurities rather than just as a young queer person trying to come out.

Dramarama is the quintessential film for theatre kids, capturing the melodrama and delightfully nerdy atmosphere perfectly. It’s a shame that the story doesn’t come together so succinctly, it’s unquestionably worth watching but doesn’t go as far as you might imagine. It plays a lighter note than what it needed to create something more substantial and impactful. It will work best for a young audience but there’s a little something for everyone in its quirky charm.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

Reviewed as part of BFI Flare

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