There is a scene about 20 minutes into Dance Party, USA
in which Gus, a teenage creep played with remarkable honesty by Cole Pennsinger, confesses a horrible act to a pretty stranger (the equally excellent Anna Kavan). Set in the front yard of a house party, the scene is tough to watch, shocking without being “shocking!” Too bad the movie that frames it never really lives up to that early moment. Still, writer-director Aaron Katz has a gift for naturalistic dialogue—that alone allows his film to transcend the micro-budget indie gabfest genre. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between naturalistic and dull, and Dance Party occasionally crosses it as its young actors talk about life, or don’t talk about life. The film isn’t afraid of long, silent takes, but it also wanders. Given the obvious financial restraints (the total budget was $3,000), maybe Dance Party should have been a dynamite short.