BFI Flare Review: Dramarama

DIRECTED BY

Jonathan Wysocki

STARRING

Megan Suri, Nico Greetham, Anna Grace Barlow, Zak Henri, Nick Pugliese and Danielle Kay

SYNOPSIS

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.

In the summer of 1994, Gene and his small gang of theatre-loving friends get together for one final murder mystery party before they leave for college the next morning. With a mutual flair for the dramatic, emotions always run high amongst the group, although tonight’s third act looks set to be particularly explosive as Gene has a secret he needs to share with his conservative friends.

Dramarama is the directorial feature debut of Jonathan Wysocki, who also wrote the screenplay. This coming-of-age drama focuses on Gene getting ready to meet with his friends Oscar, Rose, Claire and Ally, while also struggle to find a way in which he can come out to his conservative and religious friends. As he meets with his theatre-loving friends at Rose’s house, long held secrets and issues begin to surface amongst the group during their last night together before they head off to different colleges in the morning.

The first act gives us an indication to what the rapport is generally like between the group as they participate in a Victorian themed murder mystery party, as they put their love of theatre at the forefront, committing to the characters they have to play right down to doing accents. However, when the pizza delivery guy is someone they know, a high school dropout named J.D, he is dismissive of their literal tastes and pokes fun at their personalities, lighting a silent bomb in the house as his brief involvement causes an impending rift in their evening as the group begin to question just what made them friends in the first place? Rose overhears Genie being invited by J.D to a house party later tonight, which causes some early friction, but it’s when Gene, whose already struggling with telling his friends about his sexuality, also expresses to them that he’s become a sceptic, this leads to a second-half that not only makes me question just how the group become a clique but did they band together for so long.

For a group that loves the theatre, their viewpoints are deeply restricted due to their Christianity (according to the film), and everyone carries their own crisis of identity, with the majority of them playing up their assigned roles for the evening in certain moments to avoid dealing with matters of realness. There is a few scenes however that are well constructed, such as the subtleness of Gene speaking to Oscar in the car about his ‘gay coworker’ and confronting him about his beliefs on homosexuality that he expressed before, and a scene involving Gene and Claire in the final act. The dynamic and chemistry between the ensemble overall is really good, you really buy into them being a group of people that have known each other for ages, though for me my favourite performances were from Nick Pugliese as Gene and Danielle Kay as Ally. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling annoyed by all of the main characters and I don’t feel that was Wysocki’s intention. Some of the humour also fell flat for me and while some might not enjoy the fart joke scene that takes place after all the drama, that scene felt stupidly reminiscent of me and my friends laughing at the exact same stupid stuff so I ain’t judging it…I felt that moment. I also have to credit Devon Horn for his work as costume designer on the film.

VERDICT

Dramarama has a decent premise with an ensemble that have a solid dynamic together, but I found myself being annoyed by rather than caring for the characters. Still kudos to Wysocki for not going for a cliched ending.

★★½