THE FIRST TIME (2012)
Starring Dylan O’Brien, Britt Robertson, Victoria Justice, James Frecheville, Craig Roberts, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Lamarcus Tinker, Christine Taylor, Joshua Malina and Halston Sage.
Screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan.
Directed by Jonathan Kasdan.
Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13.
The title The First Time may set off warning bells. Caution: teen sex comedy ahead.
However, while that may even be technically true, The First Time has a more complex agenda. Yes, it is the story of an adorable teen couple losing their virginity, but the “first” is love here, not sex. Well, not just sex.
In general Hollywood has taken a take-no-prisoners approach to teen romances, trying to ladle on American Pie raunch with a minimum amount of Judd Apatow style relating. Even Apatow himself tends to fall into the gross-out trap.
The First Time is a more thoughtful look at first love, with much more in common with the Richard Linklater Before Sunrise films than anything that stars Jason Biggs or Jonah Hill.
There isn’t much to the story, but then again there isn’t much to most young love stories in the real world. A smart, funny and shy teen named Dave (Dylan O’Brien of Teen Wolf) is trying to work up the courage to ask out his long-time crush Jane (Victoria Justice of Victorious) at a party, when he meets a cute, sensitive, slightly jaded teen girl named Aubrey (Britt Robertson of Life Unexpected).
They start talking, start relating. She is dating a college guy and he has been devoted to a girl who has considered him just a friend for years, but suddenly they start timidly considering each other as a match. They walk home together, talk, drink some wine, fall asleep and have to part in a hurry in the morning.
The next few days becomes a whirlwind of running into each other – at a movie with other dates, at a party (still with the other dates) – and sneaking off to steal a few private moments. They decide to give it a shot and rush into intimacy, only to regret it later.
Like I said, not too much happening. However, The First Time isn’t about big plot points, it’s more about learning to communicate. The great majority of the movie is made up of long, luxurious conversations between the two leads, in which they discover each other and themselves and also set off a series of clever pop culture references and psychobabble theories.
The dialogue in the film is smart and funny. Occasionally too smart and funny for these characters in these situations, granted. However, if the worst thing you can say about writer/director Jonathan Kasdan’s screenplay is that it is too clever, there are worse things. In fact, Kasdan, who is best known for the TV series Freaks and Geeks and the movie In the Land of Women, may come into his ability with a well-crafted speech naturally. His father Lawrence Kasdan wrote and directed the similarly whip-smart and just a hair too pithy The Big Chill, amongst other films.
Like I said earlier, perhaps the film that The First Time most resembles is Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, in which two young twenty-somethings meet by chance, walk around a strange city for hours just talking and falling in love. The First Time is not as good as Before Sunrise, but just being in the same company is a pretty impressive thing.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 5, 2012.