Judge Gordon Sullivan went back home recently. He didn't do anything worth putting in a movie, either.
In the end, it's all just a beginning
I was initially interested in Wasted because it sounded like an interesting coming-of-age story. So many films focus on leaving after high school that it's nice to see the occasional film that considers what it's like to return a few years later. I was also intrigued by the film's ensemble, as it features actors who get a decent amount of screen time but who rarely play leads.
Wasted is the story of three friends who get back together in their hometown in the mid-'90s following the death of a friend, Bender. Mitch (Kip Pardue, The Rules of Attraction) is the most successful of them all, with a college degree in the near future and money to fall back on. Stan (Eddie Kaye Thomas, American Pie) is still the same awkward-but-nice loser he was when he left years ago, still having trouble with the ladies. Finally, Dixon is the friend who stayed behind, making it as he could in a dead-end town. Naturally, it's left him a little bitter. The film follows the weekend of the funeral of Bender as the three friends learn about themselves and each other.
Take one part Bret Easton Ellis novel (gratuitous sex and drugs, family problems, and awkward conversations), and mix it with the narrative elements of Dazed and Confused (i.e. a lack of plot and general aimlessness), and you've got Wasted, a film that tries to be a poignant look at growing up and instead succeeds in being a trite look at a group of guys holding onto adolescence. The film's big problem is an utter lack of narrative drive. There's no real story here: some guys come home from a funeral, wander around their town trying to find something to do, and end up dissatisfied. Yes, there are some revelations, and stuff does happen, but it all seems disconnected and insignificant. Maybe that makes sense for the characters, but it's not a great effect to have on an audience.
After the lack of narrative drive, the film utterly lacks sympathetic (or even interesting) characters. On one hand, what we do know about the characters puts them in a bad light. On the other, we don't have enough information to really get to know these guys. We know Stan's a loser with the ladies, we know Mitch cheats on his girlfriend and has family issues, and we know Dixon is squandering what little potential he has. What we don't know is why we should care about these guys, or what events in their past might led them to this crossroads. The inevitable revelations surrounding Bender's death do little to complicate the characters, although they try valiantly.
The actors do a decent job in their roles, but the casting is a bit tired. Eddie Kaye Thomas plays a nice guy who always gets the "we should just be friends" treatment? I'm shocked. Kip Pardue plays a privileged guy with father issues? No way! The script doesn't give them a whole lot to do, so the actors generally get by on playing a type instead of a character. The dark horse of the production is Josh Cooke as Dixon. As the more troubled of the trio he has to do most of the dramatic heavy lifting. He gets to be angst-filled and brooding, with his dark secret, so I found his performance most interesting. Still, his performance fails to save a lackluster script with an emotionally hollow ending.
On the technical front, the DVD does a decent job with the material. This isn't a big-budget blockbuster, so the source material isn't the sharpest. However, the video doesn't suffer from any obvious compression difficulties. The audio was unremarkable but got the dialogue across fairly well. A few scenes were difficult to understand, but they were rare. For extras we get some so-so deleted scenes (with optional director's commentary) and a still gallery. Plus, there's a commentary on the feature with the director, his co-writer, and actor Josh Cooke. If you enjoyed the film this track is recommended, as the three seem comfortable sharing production info and enjoying the film. The film is a little easier to stand after their comments, as many things left vague by the narrative are spelled out in the commentary. It didn't make me like Wasted any more, but it did add to my appreciation of the cast and crew.
Wasted isn't a complete waste, but it's guilty of being entirely middle of the road, offering very little that's new to the coming-of-age genre.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Deleted Scenes (With Optional Director's Commentary)
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