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The Standard

By  · Published on October 2nd, 2006

Release Date: TBA

There’s a moment that comes while watching The Standard when you realize that the movie is for real. It happens just a few minutes into the first scene when Jeremy (Nathan Vetterlein) walks purposefully out to his car and holds a gun to his temple. Luckily, director Jordan Albertsen runs the opening credits afterward – bare names against a simple black screen – to give the audience time to think about what they’ve seen.

This is the kind of review that is difficult to write without giving too much away, which is odd, since the bulk of the movie is a character study of several high school students. The story picks up three days prior to the event in its shocking introduction and focuses on Dylan (Alex Frost) and his existential crisis; he is unsure about every part of his life from his future plans with his long time girlfriend Gina (Marnette Patterson) to his status as a model student. He and his friends, Ryan (Taylor Handley), Eric (Max Van Ville), Faison (Bobby Brewer), and Zac (Paul Benz) are all in a state of limbo. With two weeks left in high school, they are not quite free and not quite adults.

So how could it possibly be interesting? That’s part of what works best in this movie. It seems like every year, hundreds of movies about high school life and how boring it is pop into a box office for one weekend before they fail. The Standard succeeds because it focuses on being true to high school life without being falsely dramatic or boring. The tension exists between the characters, and the themes presented echo past the twelfth grade.

The good news is that I was lucky enough to catch a showing of The Standard at the San Diego Film Festival. The bad news is that without enough buzz or the right distribution company, you might never get to see it. At the screening, producer Brian Scott Robinson and a few of the cast members were on hand for a Q and A session afterward. When asked about the title, Robinson’s answer offered a philosophy about the film’s production that reveals why it, out of a slew of high school films, actually has something to add to the culture of cinema. He claimed that the title was meant “as a metaphor for the characters themselves. These kids are the standard.” A fact that rings true inside the memory banks of almost every audience member who can solidly identify with Dylan and his cohorts or recognizes one of their own high school experiences happening right there on the screen. It’s simple. It’s understated. And it works.

Before the introductory scene is replayed near the end, you’ve almost forgotten completely about the tragic event that loomed inevitably in the distance. Jeremy slips into the background of the story as if slipping into an empty table at the back of the cafeteria to eat alone, neglected and forgotten about. The story doesn’t focus on him or the reasons he pulls a gun out of his glove compartment during school. That much is left to the audience’s imagination as well as any justification for what he actually ends up doing with it.

With brilliant direction, camera work, and sincere dialogue and acting, The Standard is one of those rare movies that achieves what it sets out to do without having to resort to plot twists from left field or awkward special fx added as an afterthought. At its core, it is shocking, heartfelt and masterfully entertaining. I can only hope that you might one day get a chance to see it. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

The Upside: It’s probably the most honest portrayal of high school life laid down on film in a while, and achieves this status without the audience groaning or falling asleep. Chalk that all up to the brilliant acting and directing.

The Downside: Some minor dialogue problems and the early portrayals of the love between Dylan and Gina is just on this side of sappy.

On the Side: Jordan Albertsen was named Best Director for this entry in the San Diego Film Festival.

Final Grade: A

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