Sundance 2012 Review: The First Time

The First Time

Most people remember the first time they fell in love.  You’re young.  You’re kind of an idiot.  You don’t really know exactly what you’re feeling, but strangely you both like and hate it at the same time.  Awkwardness abounds, but it’s exciting.  All these feelings and emotions are on display in the movie The First Time.  It’s a charming little ditty that won’t wow you with anything exceptional, but takes you along for a gentle and adorable little ride.  It’s like an early crush on the “sweet” girl…  cozy and fun for a while, her smile makes you warm inside, but eventually you move on to that more twisted, dangerous girl with the tattoo.  The First Time is kind of like that sweet girl.  So as long as you aren’t into the dangerous types (like me, I admit), you’ll enjoy this sweet girl of a film.

Many times at Sundance the term “independent movie” equals “very talky movie.”  The First Time is no different.  This film is very talky.  There is a lot of dialogue on display here, helped in part by the actors who always seem to nervously pack a few extra sentences into time spans usually allotted for less.  The opening scene is basically 10+ minutes of just the two leads escaping from a party and meeting in an alley.  It’s dialogue heavy and went on a little long for me, but I see what the director was doing.  He wanted to show in its entirely how two random strangers can build a quick connection.  It’s cute, if at times a little contrived.  After these two are able to find this initial connection, the rest of the movie is dedicated to following their connection over the course of a weekend, and it goes from there.

I’ll admit it started a little slow for me.  The extremely lengthy opening scene aided in that.  But it starts to build on you.  Following these two well cast actors as they both discover the “first time” they truly connect with someone of the opposite sex is pretty damn adorable.  And a lot of that is due to the casting of two people that actually have a fantastic chemistry together.  In a romantic comedy, chemistry is top of the list in importance for me.  And here, these two just have it.  With that chemistry, we as an audience will travel with them regardless of scenario because since we can see that they actually work together well, we are vested in pulling for them.  The roadblocks and contrivances (yes there are a few) thrown in to break them up doesn’t matter to us because at the core, we’re all softies and want to see two people that should be together, be together.  And it’s all because of chemistry.  Kudos to the casting team and the director for nailing that so perfectly.

Some of the external bits or characters didn’t quite fit with me.  Some just felt there superficially.  Others just felt tacked on to try and make the film feel more “well rounded”, but in the end I didn’t really care.  It’s about the couple.  It’s pleasant to follow them and made me think back to my own high school experiences, and the pitter patter we all felt when we liked someone.  It’s a nice feeling.

Even a hardened horror guy like myself found myself grinning in the end, so regardless of minor quibbles, I guess that’s what this kind of movie is about.  We all love the scary tattooed bad girl (or boy), but let’s be honest, we need to crush on a sweet girl every once in a while.  The First Time is that sweet girl.  Go ahead and take her for a sweet spin.

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