Film reviews

Feb 24, 2011

Wasted on the Young movie review: scorching social allegory

Luke Buckmaster — Writer, Critic and The Daily Review Journalist

Luke Buckmaster

Writer, Critic and The Daily Review Journalist

Teenagers run amok like fallen angels in a drug-drenched paradise in Wasted on the Young, a scorching ultra modern morality fable that uses school grounds, party houses and internet connections as stomping grounds for social allegory.

Based in a hyper real parallel universe populated by students, where adults exist but we never see their faces, debut Australian writer/director Ben C. Lucas promptly introduces us to the troubled existence of the smart but introverted Darren (Oliver Ackland).

One scene in, Darren’s getting taunted and slapped around in the changing rooms. It’s then you can be forgiven for assuming the next two or so hours will consist of another same old same old story of a bullied youth’s struggle for retribution. Lucas spends the remainder of the running time proving just how wrong that assumption was.

Darren lives alone in a ritzy modern abode with his half-brother Zack (Alex Russell), whose place in the school/social hierarchy is comparable to Marlon Brando’s in The Godfather: he masterminds the social scene, organises parties, girls, drugs, people to do his dirty work.

Darren has eyes for a sweet, sensible girl named Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens) who sticks out from the riff raff. She likes him but their romance crashes to a halt before it begins when Xandrie’s drink is spiked at one of Zack’s ekkies-and-lasers parties. Zack and his mates rape her and turf her body off a cliff, leaving her for dead.

It’s clear from the outset that Wasted on the Young will be about searching for justice in one form or another, but you’ll never guess where Lucas’s wild screenplay spirals.

Lucas imagines a hyper real world close to our own, where the constructs of cyber land have created a different plateau of existence. With cinematographer Dan Freene and editor Leanne Cole the trailblazing first-timer cranks the bling and bravado to 11. There are flashbacks, a non-linear plot structure, breakouts into snippets of fantasy and imagination, freeze frames and bursts into convulsions of video game style aesthetics.

Rising star Oliver Ackland (watch this face) is a powerhouse as Darren, able to internalise and project a hotbed of conflicting emotions. The chemistry between him and the bright-eyed Adelaide Clemens needed to work, and it does.

Wasted on the Young is Lord of the Flies for the iPad generation: a fiery parable about abused freedom and corrupted power in a lawless techno-land where every room has a screen, every thought has a status update, every emotion has a social media impulse. Where vengeance can be shared, streamlined, emailed, MMSed. Where a human life – in one extraordinary and disturbing scene that may eventually prove eerily prophetic – can be completely disconnected.

Bob Dylan once intoned the words “to live outside the law, you must be honest.” The message in this film, placed in the context of an online frontier that is still largely without regulation, is similar.

Many things are wasted on the young. Let’s hope the mind-massaging Wasted on the Young – one of the boldest and most original Australian films in years – isn’t one of them.

Wasted on the Young’s Australian theatrical release date: March 3, 2011

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6 thoughts on “Wasted on the Young movie review: scorching social allegory

  1. AACTA film nominations 2012: AFI Awards | Cinetology

    […] Wasted on the Young – the trailblazing debut of writer/director Ben C Lucas — also picked up only one nomination, unfortunately not surprising given this bold, edgy and socially explorative film was criminally under-rated by critics and, in turn, AFI members. They rightfully nominated it, however, for Best Editing. […]

  2. The unnoticed parallels between mental health initiatives and portrayals in Australian film | Cinetology

    […] Wasted on the Young depicts the horrific experiences of a bright teenage girl who attends a house party and is drugged and raped. When she returns to school, battered physically and emotionally, she is relentlessly bullied, much of it occurring online. Driven to desperation, she brings a gun to school and entertains thoughts of getting even. […]

  3. KeithJLawrence

    >>‘Lord of the Flies’ is ‘Lord of the Flies’ for the iPad generation.<<

    Can you really imagine iPad generation reading the novel and/or watching a black and white movie? I'd also put Wasted on the Young there with Lindsay Anderson's 'If…'

    I'm with Luke. It may be to a large degree formulaic in terms of its story – but certainly not in its delivery. There was enough uncertainty to be left wondering where we were going with the film. The film may be flawed but certainly not 'unengaging'.

    BTW as it was Jonathan who was taking the video footage, it was his laptop Darren hacked.

  4. shiralee

    “It’s then you can be forgiven for assuming the next two or so hours will consist of another same old same old story of a bullied youth’s struggle for retribution. Lucas spends the remainder of the running time proving just how wrong that assumption was.”

    I disagree. After Darren gets taunted and slapped around in the changing rooms, Lucas actually does spend the remainder of this film’s running time proving just how right your assumption, i.e. a bullied youth’s struggle for retribution, was. Throughout the film, if Darren isn’t fantasizing about or actually seeking revenge for himself or Xandrie, then what is he doing? Admittedly, he does swim a few laps of a pool, eats a couple of bowls of cereal and plays a few video games, but for the most part, if he isn’t either imagining or discussing shooting up the school a la Columbine, then Darren is holed up in his bedroom building an intricate robot that will help him take the revenge he seeks. The action also includes him hacking into his step (not half) brother, Zack’s laptop. Later, much of the film is taken up with Darren’s methodical planning of a means of broadcasting incriminating footage he has found. Further in, he organizes other victims of bullying to trap Zack. Finally, on cue and unsurprisingly, the obvious and unoriginal theme is rammed home when the “evil will triumph when good men do nothing” card is played while Zack very publicly gets his comeuppance. And that’s it – a predictably uncomplicated ending. As usual, in films about bullying, the best man, the heroic, physically weaker underdog, wins. Take out the gratuitous violence, facebook and texting and what’s left? The bare bones of unengaging version of the same old same old story.

    “Wasted on the Young is Lord of the Flies for the iPad generation.”

    Again, I disagree. ‘Wasted on the Young’ is not ‘Lord of the Flies’ for the iPad generation. ‘Lord of the Flies’ is ‘Lord of the Flies’ for the iPad generation. Why? ‘Lord of the Flies’ is a masterpiece. ‘Wasted on the Young’ is a flawed film.

  5. Erudite Wookie

    Good review, Luke. I didn’t even know this film existed. Like Martin said, Aussie films need innovative marketing! Not sure this one has had it.

  6. Martin

    I’ll have to reserve judgement on the film until I see it but I hope it is good!

    However, another Australian film which has almost zero awareness, almost no buzz online and very little advertising. (I’ve checked Google Insights + Social Media monitoring tools covering Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, Twitter and thousands of other sites relevant to target audience and there is very little conversation. YouTube has only 6k views of the trailer and only 31 comments. A recent online chat with MTV Australia generated a whopping 84 tweets. I can go on and on with a more detailed analysis.)

    As I’ve outlined previously, we make great, technically proficient films in Australia, we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the industry, government agencies are determining the slate of films which get funding (which does have a dramatic influence on the genre, type and style of films) and yet there is nothing for marketing and distribution and we still use outdated marketing & distribution strategies.

    What is the point of investing 2-3m in a movie or even more if nobody, including the local distributor will invest in marketing and distributing the film well?

    We still see the same old tired noughties marketing tactics and techniques which no longer work. Yes it is a trade off of risking marketing dollars against projected revenue but this should be taken into account when the film is funded / green lit. If no distributor is going to invest in an appropriate level of marketing and a distribution strategy which is relevant to the target audience of the film and the expected revenue from the various channels then why wgreen light the film (and I particularly point out screen agencies)?

    Not all films and not all stories can or should scale to the big screen and therefore this should be considered as well as the overall media consumption of various channels of the intended audiences and the overall revenue projections from box office and downstream channels. *Only 19% of a films revenue comes from box office.

    Many films have benefited significantly from going to VOD (Video On Demand) before a theatrical release or just going to VOD only. ‘Red Cliff’ is one example and ‘Good Things’ is just one other (there are hundreds of examples). ‘Good Things’: $4m VOD just $367K at Box Office. Good story on Wall Street Journal ‘For Indie Films, Video-on-Demand Fills in Revenue Gap’

    Until we (film industry, screen agencies and distributors) understand and address this no amount of creativity and film making excellence will matter and we will never create a sustainable industry.

    You can debate me here or on Twitter @martinwalsh

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