Will Bakke’s latest film wasn’t made with the pandemic in mind.
Shot over 12 nights in a house on the edge of Austin, Bakke and co-writer Michael B. Allen sought to simply create the feel of a Friday night party that everyone has been to in their twenties.
There’s the overly friendly guy, the girl who just wants to leave as soon as possible, so-and-so who’s been out of town so long it feels like they’re a totally different person.
Life always seems to converge in these house parties and The Get Together definitely strives to evoke an early Richard Linklater Slacker, Dazed and Confused vibe with its brisk, engaging narrative.
The Get Together follows four people who all end up at the same party but didn’t come as a group. Homebody August stumbles into the situation after a strange encounter as an Uber driver; Damien gets interrupted trying to propose to his girlfriend Betsy by a quirky former classmate; and thirty-something Caleb sullenly tries to find himself after both his bandmates quit on him in the same night.
Though it purports itself to be a party movie, the festivities themselves become more of a backdrop to the characters themselves and their arrival feels genuinely coincidental and could happen in a variety of ubiquitous scenarios beyond a post-college rager.
Courtney Parchman kicks things off with an instant infusion of energy as the frantically overwhelmed August, a loner whose uncomfortability in large parties will immediately resonate with generations of wallflowers wanting to be a part of the action but awkwardly unsure of how to proceed. Her performance is effervescent and endearing, immediately drawing the audience into the narrative in a way that jars viewers when the night restarts from a new perspective.
Alejandro Rose-Garcia melds a relaxed confidence with exasperation and longing to recapture the glory days of his fading youth as Caleb. It’s an impressive effort from the Austin-based musician better known as Shakey Graves, who helps anchor The Get Together with chill bravado masking a wounded soul.
The Get Together mixes its tones between the serious and playful well, but Chad Werner’s all-too-naïve, fun-loving oddball Lucas tiptoes the line of eccentricity without falling over into caricature. Werner is the comedic center of the entire film and despite not being the focus of the film, Lucas is by far the most memorable character and will draw the biggest reactions in a love-him or hate-him way.
The film is reminiscent of many one-night party films, but Bakke and Allen’s decision to restart the night at each act break complicates the structure. The narrative moves precisely to reveal just enough of the larger picture, teasing things to come in such a way that new revelations change the entire outlook.
As a director, Bakke does a terrific job of keeping the audience informed of time and place, something that could easily get confusing over the course of 70 minutes with viewers bouncing back and forth between the same moments from different perspectives.
It’s important in timeline-bending films like these that the filmmaker properly orients us in the visual geography.
The filmmaking team accomplishes this by making the geography visually distinctive. Each location within the house are colorfully hued to trigger in the viewer’s mind where events are taking place. Garrison’s bedroom is shaded in a deep red; the outdoor patio and pool area pop with neon pink and yellow; and the main living areas have a blueish hue.
Made prior to the pandemic, The Get Together is the sort of small indie film that will help remind audiences of what life was like before social distancing and masks, when drinks were shared freely and elbow bumps didn’t take the place of big hugs.
Charming and sure to put a smile on faces, The Get Together deserves a look on demand for independent film lovers ready to engage with friends after considerable time apart.
NOTE: The Get Together was a 2020 selection for the Hill Country Film Festival, where this critic serves as a film programmer. The Get Together was screened Sunday afternoon as part of the organization’s Indie Film Series at Hoffman Haus.