Halcyon Days: A Review of Pool Party ’15
By Caleb True
“Echo Park can be a good time. If you’re in the mood.”
Pool Party ’15, Logan Garrity and Kevin Greenwood’s first film, opens on the tail end of a long night. We seem to be on the backyard patio of an Echo Park house party. Dawn (Jasmine Dubauskas), the film’s focus, listens halfheartedly to a drunk Jake (Ross Mann), and listlessly arranges empty bottles on a tabletop. The soundtrack is in charge. Jake animatedly rambles, Dawn is bored; we don’t hear them, just jaunty jazz.
Cut to the next morning: June gloom. The various groups of characters, in twos and threes, talk mindlessly and prepare for the pool party in question. They arrange rides, nurse hangovers, jog. It’s very LA. Eli (Laura VanDenBergh), the host, wants everyone to be there, wants it to be perfect. People do arrive, with varying degrees of enthusiasm for the get-together. They chitchat. They splash in the pool, sun themselves, worry about Jake, who has not arrived. A musician expects a call from a big-time producer. People wait for other people. People smoke weed. Finally, as soon as it seems everyone has arrived, two leave again, to lay bets at a nearby horse track. Best-laid plans are out the window. This might be the worst thing that happens in the movie: some disappointment. There’s romantic intrigue besides and a visit from the anticipated music industry guy, which serves as a satirical highlight of the film. Hopes aren’t exactly dashed, but somewhat mocked. People have come to enjoy themselves, but, until they’re nicely buzzed, they’ll have to contend with their own anxious thoughts. It’s the same at the pool as anywhere.
That’s the point, maybe. The joke seems always to be on our generation, whose problems are existential, global, omnipresent—as everywhere as the internet which exacerbates them. Tune (Kyler Sturtz), a character who does his damnedest to be the life of the party, provides the lesson: life is going to have to be what we make of it, right now. Whether we enjoy it at all is entirely up to us. Tune performs enjoyment. We are clued in, however, that he longs for Dawn, who likes him “like a brother,” and that adds a bittersweet layer to all the freewheeling. Somehow, though there is a pool, most of the people end up away from it, leaving nearly as soon as they arrive or wandering off in twos and threes to talk quietly. I suppose this is the luxury of the pool, or of luxury, more generally: the thing to do might just be to ignore it.
Mostly this is a film about young people in what they might refer to, a decade on, as their halcyon days. Does my generation have those? It seems like something boomers have (with the Vietnam War a convenient divider between youthful glory days from the rest of life), but that millennials, with a stagflating economy and latent, persistent war, seem to forego. In LA, the weather seems not to want to change, just like us kids—youth forever, and not much to look back to or feel nostalgic about. Work some job, party every night, recover, repeat. Sprinkle in some self-care. Climate change; emotional and financial disaffection; generalized ennui (did I leave something out?)—these things form for us a constant condition, preventing the formation of what in previous generations might have been referred to as ‘halcyon’ days.
Pool Party ’15 still somehow manages to be overwhelmingly positive. Tune provides a surprising role model of centeredness. The kids might indeed be alright. They’re dealing—they haven’t a choice. Dawn is chided about toying with the LA newb, the newest cute boy—“be gentle with him.” Is this as bad as things will get? For them—for us—until the water runs out, it might be.
Here is Caleb’s list of favorite movies from the past decade or so:
The Little Hours
Death of Stalin
Listen Up, Philip
Grand Budapest Hotel
La La Land
The Disaster Artist