By – Gareth Jones
For fans of Christopher Guest mockumentaries, and well, … theater camp!
This has been quite a year for Molly Gordon and Ayo Edebiri. Both had fantastic performances in the acclaimed series The Bear. Ayo Edebiri is also starring in multiple films at this time including another film at the Sidewalk Film Festival Bottoms. She is very good in Theater Camp but her role is small and I think a bit underused. This film really belongs to Molly Gordon and Ben Platt, as well as the younger actors playing the campers. Molly Gordon stars in the film and co-directs with Nick Lieberman. She also co-wrote the film with Liberman and fellow castmate Noah Galvin.
This film is a mockumentary that lovingly tells the story of a Theatre Camp that is near collapse after the literal collapse of its beloved leader Joan Rubinsky (portrayed by the always hilarious Amy Sedaris). Her non-theatrical son Troy (played superbly by Jimmy Tatro) tries to take control of the financially desperate camp. The thematic trope of the camp needing to be rescued is evident but given new life by the brilliant cast. Will they save the day? Well, we all know the answer to that already. Theater Camp is not breaking any new ground, but through sheer exuberance it wins you over. It is a combination of Waiting for Guffman and Wet Hot American Summer but with a well-earned love for actual theater camps. You can tell that Platt and Gordon are direct products of similar experiences and thrive in that environment. It is a love letter to the energy and love that can exist in a summer camp in spite of the pain and the suffering that also thrives in that environment. When I saw the premiere at Sundance this year, the screening was followed by a live performance from the young audience and it was obvious that a bond had been made. You could see the genuine admiration between the cast and crew. The audience was singing along and left the screening with a literal skip in their step.
The parallels between making a film and going to camp are often accurate. The songs are hilarious in the film. The biggest issue I have with the film is that I wanted more Sedaris, more Edebiri, and more Alan Kim (from Minari). Of course, any enjoyable show should leave you wanting more, which is certainly the case with Theater Camp.
Playing at the Sidewalk Film Festival on Sunday, April 27 at 8:55pm in the Alabama Theatre (perfect way to end your festival weekend!)
Written by: Gareth Jones
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