Nostalgia, Satire and Funnel Cakes

By: Brian O’Conor


New York, NY:

I hate coming-of-age comedies. In fact, the genre has become almost a pardoy of itself. Films like College, and the Van Wilder series have taught the movie-going public to distrust any comedy featuring young people.

Whatever happened to films like The Breakfast Club? Or films like Dazed and Confused? These coming-of-age comedies were made from a point of view. They’re personal films whose rich characters make us laugh and reflect on who we were at that age. Today’s coming-of-age comedies make us reflect on how we should have stayed home and watched DVR’ed episodes of Law & Order.

I just left a sneak preview screening of The Graduates, a new comedy from first-time independent filmmaker Ryan Gielen, and I’m floating. The Graduates is both a return to, and progression of the classic coming-of-age comedy.

The setup is familiar: four friends leave high school graduation, cram into an old, hideous car, and drive to the beach on a singular mission: to get laid before the week is over. What follows is anything but familiar.

Through a hilarious, winding and tormenting slew of parties, the boys fall in and out of love, strike out, break up and ultimately grow up. The humor is derived from the relationships- strained, overly long friendships predicated upon growing up in the same town- instead of from gags.

As I left the theater I caught myself repeating lines from the movie, imagining myself stuck in many of the same hysterical situations as the deeply, beautifully flawed characters. This is new to me. I leave most comedies wondering what committee got together to decide which recycled jokes would make it into the film, and which they would save for the next film six months later.

While I’m not from Maryland (where The Graduates takes place), the story was so well-crafted I found myself nostalgiac for that time of life when the biggest trauma was being rejected by a beautiful girl, and the pain was washed away instantly with a couple beers with friends.

Bottom line: The Graduates is an absolute treasure.

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I hate coming-of-age comedies. In fact, the genre has become almost a pardoy of itself. Films like College, and the Van Wilder series have taught the movie-going public to distrust any comedy featuring young people.

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