‘The First Time’ is all about the time of teen angst

Victoria Justice and Dylan O'Brien in 'The First Time'
Victoria Justice and Dylan O’Brien in ‘The First Time’

The First Time is the story of two high school students, “Aubrey Miller” (Robertson) and “Dave Hodgman” (O’Brien), who meet in the alley behind a big house where a bunch of teens are engaged in some serious partying.

Dave is back there all alone, practicing a speech he wants to deliver to “Jane” (Justice), who at that moment is with “the best looking guy in school”.  He is in love with Jane and is also a close friend of hers and you can almost smell the angst in the air.

Aubrey asks to hear his speech and she is not impressed.  He’s a senior, she’s a junior, they go to different schools and had they not run into each other in that alley, they might have never met.  Worse yet, she has a boyfriend of sorts, “Ronny” (Frecheville), who is older, wiser, hipper and someone Dave could never compete with.

When the party ends abruptly and both lose their rides home, Dave walks Aubrey the dozen or so blocks to her house where she invites him into her room.  After an awkward beginning, she ends up allowing him to stay, although nothing is going to happen just yet.  Well, except of course for Dave’s forced departure when they fall asleep and are awakened the next morning by her mother’s knocking on the door.  His exit from the second floor bedroom through a window and off of the adjacent roof is amusing.

Brittany Robertson and Dylan O'Brien in 'The First Time'
Brittany Robertson and Dylan O’Brien in ‘The First Time’

Dave and Aubrey eventually meet again, and that leads to an entire weekend where the two get to know one another through events involving other people.  Ronny, Jane, Simon, Big Corporation and others, including Dave’s sister are there, but the focus is on Dave and Aubrey and how they are quickly falling for one another.

Teen angst has been the subject of both brilliant and horrible filmmaking and The First Time is somewhere in between, although much closer to brilliance than horrible.

Kasdan’s story of two people who would likely have never met and what brings them together and closer in the face of things that might have conspired to keep them apart is interesting.  But there are too many dialogue-driven scenes where the cleverness of the words overpowers the story and not enough of the really good scenes where the connection is as much non-verbal as verbal.  Dave and Aubrey have strong levels of insight into each other’s character and nature from the moment they meet and that’s much more interesting than dialogue that’s too hip for the room.

The First Time also suffers from the fact that the settings aren’t very realistic.  Not every teen looks perfect, lives in a great big house, or has parents who are absent or who are absent even when they are there.  Backgrounds are never as important as the story in the foreground, but they can enhance or detract from that story and here the lack of realism is a bit disappointing.

The chemistry between the leads is palpable and works well.  Justice is fine as the “hot chick” who may or may not be coming to grips with the realization that the guys she keeps choosing aren’t the right choices.  O’Brien and Robertson are perfectly cast, and they definitely “work” in these roles.

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