The set up for Dramarama feels like the stuff of popcorn and Twizzlers, appearing for all intents and purposes as if it'll be a silly romp through the eyes of high school drama students with OTT personalities. But, like most things teenagers experience, the painful parts quickly overtake the fun and games. We suppose that's why this movie is classified as a dram-com.
At first blush, there's a lot to love about this cohort of awkward squares who hold a murder mystery party on the eve of their departure for college. Anna Grace Barlow's Rose prefers to be in character and desperately tries to hold her companions to an orchestrated agenda for the night, complete with costumes, junk food and sparkling non-alcoholic apple juice. The innocence factor is compelling and cute, with each teen character fully believable. The only time viewers hear adult voices are two scenes with off-screen lines, a la Charlie Brown's teacher.
The fulcrum of the main plot seems to be the sexuality struggles of one member of the fivesome, Gene, played by Nick Pugliese (13 Reasons Why). Gene wrestles with the idea that he's realized he's gay and that his friends are probably too wrapped up in the conservative Christian interpretation of this as a sinful choice rather than a fact of life. The lack of resolve around this (spoiler alert: He never really comes out to them) and the cringey responses of his friends when he drops hints feel tone deaf, even if the movie is set in 1994.
The sleepover party and the morning after make up the entire timeline, which also contributes to some feeling of shallowness. There are some delightful yuks and moments with which we suspect everyone who was ever an adolescent can relate. Yet viewers looking for more com and less dram won't find it here.
+Fart jokes; music video reenactments and pure fun
-Do 4 of 5 '90s teens prioritize puritanism over loyal friends?
Directed by Jonathan Wysocki.
With Barlow, Henri, Greetham and Suri.
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, NR, 91 min.