We have all heard certain phrases before and know exactly how to read between their lines – it’s not you, it’s me (it’s you); I really want to go, but I have to wash my hair (I wouldn’t be caught dead there and certainly not with you); he’s got a great personality (make sure the place is poorly lit). When you hear a movie is called “The Get Together,” even if you haven’t seen a poster which features a large number of drunken revelers, you have a good idea of the general scope of the affair – it’s not a party, it’s a get together (yeah, right).
Perhaps though, that’s the last correct assumption you can make about this movie before watching. When director Will Bakke’s film, which he co-wrote with Michael B. Allen, starts, you may be tempted to think you know what’s coming. You don’t and it’s better for it.
After the opening credits (which do in fact feature party sequences) are done, we get two screaming girls. They are, apparently, trying to figure out what to do with the rat in their house, but most of what comes across is the screaming in general and not the rat issue in particular. We will come to find out that these are roommates August (Courtney Parchman) and McCall (Luxy Banner), but before that info is imparted, the screaming finds the viewer with a growing sense of disquiet in their stomach – is this just going to be a whole lot of loud, purposeless yelling? Is this a movie that is going to substitute volume for active engagement?
It isn’t. Although there’s a lot of funny and some loud involved, there’s a distinct sense of heart in “The Get Together” as well.
Yes, after things settle down and the tale truly begins, the movie shows its true colors. This is a story which largely takes place at a party, but there are three dimensional characters with true concerns in it. McCall never quite rises to that level as a character, but August does, as does Caleb (Alejandro Rose-Garcia), a guy who gets August as an Uber driver and is, when we meet him, headed for the party.
“The Get Together” is organized in three distinct chapters, offering us the story of how four different people end up at the party and what happens to them there. August gets the first portion of the movie as her story, while Caleb gets the last. Sandwiched in the middle is dating couple Betsy (Johanna Braddy) and Damien (Jacob Artist). The four characters swirl around each other and while a number of other folks keep popping up as well, these are the ones who provide the backbone.
Of our main set, only Damien seems pretty sure about what he wants in life and how to get there, but that could be because he’s the one for whom we have the least insight. Betsy, Caleb, and August are not quite sure where they’re headed or why or if they’ve made a series of terrible decisions at various moments in their lives. Damien, it could be argued, hits that point as well during the night, but for the others it feels closer to the surface.
What the intertwined tales offer us, what the characters provide so well—what the movie is actually about—is that horrible sense of not knowing, of not being sure what your future ought to be or how you should get there. Betsy, Caleb, and August watch as everyone around them seems like they know where they’re headed, or at the very least seem happy with where they are.
It can be taken for granted that nearly everyone at the party has the same anxiety even if the triumvirate don’t always see it, but then, we only know as much because we’re on the outside. What Bakke and the three actors do so well is get us inside the minds of these people, and they don’t fully see the truth. It is so very human a set of stories and works because of that.
Due to the distinct sections and organization of “The Get Together,” we go back in time more than once over the length of the movie. This is how we get each individual tale and we see some of the same instances play out from a different perspective. This offers fresh insight into moments we only caught glimpses of before. By and large the structure works without feeling either overly gimmicky or overused. Going back and rewatching the movie after seeing it once might provide a little bit more insight or make the connections slightly stronger, but it doesn’t feel necessary to rewatch the movie to understand it.
A funny, heartfelt, endeavor on the whole, what works less well here is the closing. By the end, the party may be played out for August, Caleb, Betsy, and Damien and their crises may be concluded, but there’s a sense of hurriedness to it, as if the movie’s over because it’s time for the credits as opposed to it being time for the credits because the movie’s over.
I don’t know that anyone is going to walk away from “The Get Together” with a better sense of who they are or their way forward in life, but that’s beside the point. The point is to understand that you’re not alone in how you feel and what fears you harbor. That it does and does well, and it’s a message we could all probably use as the pandemic (hopefully) continues to wind down and people venture out into the world once more.
“The Get Together” is available streaming this weekend.
photo credit: Vertical Entertainment