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Review - American Reunion

May 23rd, 2004

It's strange for me to write a review a film about a high school reunion since I didn't bother to go to mine own. My feelings about reunions are simple, if I wanted to hang around these people I would have made more of an effort to keep in touch with them. However, if I thought my reunion would have been half as engaging as American Reunion I would have gone.

The film was originally made in 2001 under the Dogme 95 manifesto, which was system developed in Denmark to increase the creativity of filmmakers by limiting, 'certain tendencies in modern filmmaking.' No use of props or costumes, can only use natural lighting, no post-production music, can only use handheld cameras, etc. This is supposed to strip away the slick, Hollywood productions to get to the raw emotional core by forcing filmmakers to focus on characters and dialogue and allows the actors to shine. However, some of the rules seem a little dogmatic and really restrict the types of stories that filmmakers can tell rather than helping them.

After a successful tour of the festival circuit, the producers decided to revamp the film's presentation without some of the more restrictive rules of Dogme. American Reunion's strength still lies in its dialogue, characters and the actors' performances. But with an improved presentation, including new score, background music, transitional shots, etc. the film has become much more accessible to the general public. I was especially impressed with the soundtrack, which contains a couple of songs that have stuck in my head.

The cast was highlighted by several strong performances, especially Marlene Forte who played Margaret, who is described in the production notes as, "once the High School slut and now the town Mayor." That makes sense, since the qualification needed to be a floozy are very similar to those needed to be a successful politician. I was also impressed with the chemistry between Jennifer Rubin who played "Weenie Jeanie" class loner and Billy Wirth as Brad the Golden-Boy who is disappointed with what he has made of his life so far.

Overall, American Reunion is an enjoyable film with sharp dialogue and intriguing characters. Almost everyone will recognize a part of themselves in at least one of the characters.

American Reunion is currently playing in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is coming to Des Moines, Iowa and Madison Wisconsin in June.

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Filed under: Reunion