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March 2, 2014

Bart Got a Room

by Franz Patrick


Bart Got a Room (2008)
★★ / ★★★★

Danny (Steve Kaplan), a senior, has his eyes set on Alice (Kate Micucci), a sophomore, and been wanting to ask her to senior prom. After a handful of seemingly obvious signs that she is also interested in him, Danny finally summons the courage to ask Alice to go with him. It turns out that she considers him only as a brother figure. With only two more months until prom, now that his first choice is unavailable, Danny becomes increasingly desperate for a date. It looks as if everyone is paired up except Camille (Alia Shawkat), Danny’s best friend of eight years.

“Bart Got a Room,” written and directed by Brian Hecker, offers a wildly amusing first half as Danny tries to ascertain whether the girl of his dreams does, in fact, want to jump his bones down to his indefatigable hunt for girls willing enough to go with him. Unfortunately, the screenplay is eventually overturned by an off-putting and unbelievable second half where Danny’s father (William H. Macy) has to get involved to help his son nab a date.

The writing captures the awkwardness of teen hormones and insecurities as well as the strangeness of recently divorced adults going on dates and avoiding their ex-spouses. As Danny converses with his friends (Brandon Hardesty, Micucci), there is a rhythm to their snappy dialogues. In turn, when the adults try to tackle the possibility of starting over with another partner, we are able to feel the desperation in their eyes, wanting to be liked so much because somewhere in the back of their minds, they are afraid to end up alone.

When the teenagers and adults mingle, however, there is not much tension that gather because Danny’s father and mother (Cheryl Hines) are so supportive that with their help, we know that everything is going to turn out all right. Therefore, when comedic punches are delivered, there is little force behind them. It does not end up being funny enough—just cute.

I liked the way Danny and Camille’s friendship is communicated and handled. From personal experience, although you may not want it to, things just… change when a friend informs you that he or she is interested in you in a certain way but you feel incapable of reciprocating his or her feelings. In a way, that is what Danny and Camille have. Although the words “as friends” come up time and again in order for them to be able to mask their insecurities of the situation, the film deals with something slightly beyond friendship.

It is fascinating to watch Camille and Danny navigate their sails as the winds of change force them in conflicting directions. There is no right choice. There are only choices that may or may not feel right for each of them.

The picture might have been more involving it had focused on the pair and done away with the cheesy countdown in terms of whether or not Danny will be able to get a date for the prom. To be honest, I did not care if he did. I cared about his process of attempting to solve the problem. Finally, the last few lines, although touching and brilliant, are not quite as vibrant as they should have been because Camille and Danny do not spend more time in front of the camera.

Still, to its credit, “Bart Got a Room” could have easily turned into a sex romp. While the possibility of having sex after the prom is mentioned, it is not a goal but simply icing on the cake.

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