Kitchen Party

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Gary Burns

REVIEWED: 03-23-98

Canadian writer-director Gary Burns' sophomore film, Kitchen Party, is a deftly constructed study of how suburban banality, when stuck inside an insulated context, can elevate itself to drama. The film starts with the basic premise of parents so anal that they forbid their living room carpet (complete with a vacuuming pattern that would strike jealousy into the heart of Wrigley Field's groundskeeper) to be trod upon. From there, an afternoon of relatively harmless teen beer-drinking slowly, and with almost an After Hours flair for tension, unravels into a series of small-scale crises. But Burns, save for maybe one occasion, never allows things to go beyond the completely believable and never abandons the humorist aspects of modern middle-class dysfunctionality. Most impressively, though, he refrains from buying into the formulas that are there for the taking. Instead, Burns remains focused on the kids (whose biggest fears in life are their parents), and the parents (whose biggest anxieties are the result of those same kids). And the cast of teens do a textbook job of recreating and sustaining high school social awkwardness despite the impending truth that they are realizing their worst, albeit insignificant fears.

--Michael Bertin

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