THE DRAMA CLUB lacks chemistry, connection, and credibility
A dramedy is a live production, television program, or motion picture that combines elements of drama and comedy. In the mid-eighties, director John Hughes had perfected the dramedy with the art of the ensemble – a group of characters/actors who blend well, develop a credible chemistry with each other, and help in propelling and escalating the entertaining elements of the story. Hughes’ Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), starred recognizable characters with relatable problems. The process of producing a successful ensemble within an entertainment medium is selective casting, a well-written script, and experienced direction. Other films with successful ensembles include The Big Chill (1983), St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). Unfortunately, The Drama Club (2017) cannot be added to this list.
Six adults gather together for what would be the 20 year reunion of their drama club. Aaron (Dane Bowman) has rented a cabin for the group. Aaron appears to be troubled, as he is seen taking pills while gazing at a group photo. Cory (Jon Thomas) and Kat (Chelsea Brandt) are the first couple to arrive, and it is clear they are struggling with their marriage. Keith (Mike Kopera) and Elle (Liza Seneca) are next to arrive. Elle is familiar with the group, while Keith is new and attempts to blend in. Cory finds Luke (Chris Ciccarelli) down by the river, reminiscing over memories, while he examines their graffiti on the bridge. Hannah (Melanie Lewis) arrives – she advertises being pro-life with bumper stickers covering the rear of her sedan. Nathan (Barry Finnegan) is last to arrive. It seems like he has endured the most change over the 20 years, as the group comment about his weight loss and of gaining his self-esteem. As dramatic events occur throughout the film, the characters switch to their younger selves, perhaps as a way to connect with a specific memory. The setup, introductions, and interactions between characters show the potential for a strong and meaningful story, but as the film progresses, the increasing lack of chemistry between these characters becomes a hindrance in gaining empathy and interest from the viewer.
The Drama Club is director Joe McClean’s second full-length feature film. Even though he may have had practice assembling and creating stories from his collection of short films, it could help if he screened a few of Hughes’ films for some insight.
What was most surprising, or disappointing, about the film was that the ensemble felt more like a gathering of former classroom peers than the reunion of a drama group. Aside from one brief improvisation moment, they spend the remainder of their time quoting The Big Lebowski (1998), referencing Ghostbusters (1984), and competing in live-action Mario Cart. Their discussions mainly cover social media, Christian values and troubled relationships, but never include their performances or production memories. A Verve Pipe tune becomes their musical centerpiece, and it isn’t until the third act when a moment of desperation finally brings a few of the characters together.
The films tagline is ‘same old friends, same old drama’. Perhaps heed their words and just rent this one, if you are so inclined.