Coming out firing with more style than substance, Australian Ben C. Lucas‘ feature film directing/writing debut, Wasted on the Young is a slick and fast-paced high school drama. Tackling meaty themes of bullying, violence and the role of the bystander with flashy visuals and a thumping soundtrack, this is a film that shows promise but is ultimately unsatisfying.
Set around an exclusive high school where the swimming jocks dictate the social hierarchy, the film follows the fall-out from a party held by leader of the pack, 17-year old Zack (newcomer Alex Russell). Awash with A-class drugs the party sees the pretty and sweet Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens, X-men Origins: Wolverine) roofied, gang-raped and left for dead. Darren (Oliver Ackland, The Proposition) who is at the opposite end of the social spectrum to his popular stepbrother Zack, is determined to find out the truth about what happened to Xandrie and who was involved.
In this teenage world dominated by social media and devoid of any adult role-models, rumours about Xandrie spread like wildfire through the school, with the techno-savvy students debating the events of the party on facebook. But despite the control Zack exercises over his peers he is threatened by the quiet Darren, and as he tries to maintain his grip on power the atmosphere at school threatens to topple over into violence.
Lucas has spoken in interviews about wanting to make the film more thematic than realistic, and he has been somewhat successful in creating a morality play of sorts. The central idea of the film is that if you allow bad things to happen to people, without protesting, you too are culpable. The responsibility of the bystander is definitely interesting to investigate and the film’s initial set-up is very intriguing, but unfortunately all too quickly the story sinks into a revenge fantasy, which as the film progresses becomes increasingly preposterous and frustratingly squanders the potential of the film’s premise.
Unfortunately for a film about high school dynamics, few of the cast look young enough to be 17 or 18 year olds. Adelaide Clemens is most certainly the shining light in this film. As Xandrie she embodies the ultimate high-school sweetheart. Good-looking and bubbly, she isn’t concerned with popularity and goes to Zack’s fateful party in order to see the shy and passive Darren. Clemens’ has a face for film, and is quickly able to influence the mood of each scene she is in.
Bret Easton Ellis-lite this new Australian film has been designed to appeal to an under-30s audience with Lucas seemingly using every visual trick in the book to try and make this film exciting. And it is aesthetically where Wasted on the Young is the most interesting and inventive, sadly the plot falls short of its director’s aspirations, and given his obvious filmic talents this is all the more disappointing.
First published on Trespass