For generations the northern tip of Manhattan, better known as Harlem, has been the de facto capital of African American culture. Over the past few decades however, Atlanta (or its popular acronym, “ATL”) has given that storied New York hub a run for its money. A major factor in this influence is its status as a focal point of Southern rap, or “Dirty South.” The recently completed feature film “It’s a Party,” uses the city’s standing as a musical Mecca as the premise of a tale about aspiring artists and entertainers throwing a surprise party for the most successful member of their “crew.”
Cory, the guest of honor and apparently a bonafide star, is absent for the majority of the film, which affords the filmmakers to attempt character studies of the partygoers, who all conspire to reach the level, financially and professionally, of the MIA birthday boy. Thusly, they congregate in his apartment to socialize, while complaining about the quality of the food, consume narcotics, and networking to hawk their wares to “blow up.”
Writer/director Weldon Wong Powers intimately knows the environment and culture he is trying to depict. Yet and still, the performances come across as stilted, broadcasting that this is Powers’ first feature after a string of shorts. This in itself is curious, because much of the cast are veterans of Los Angeles’ celebrated Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB), the improvisational sketch comedy group that’s spawned Aziz Ansari, Donald Glover, Kate McKinnon, Audrey Plaza, Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, and a host of other performers.
In spite of this talent, none of the cast is especially memorable, as Lamar Woods the co-writer with several television credits under his belt, fails to size the opportunity in a scenario involving impotence.
Others in this ensemble, including the radiant Ego Nwodim, and Hayley Marie Norman as a pretensions “artiste” are attractive enough, but fail to make the most of the script they’ve been given.
The dialogue, while serviceable, is not especially compelling, as the performers go about activities that are a fixture of house parties regardless of geographical location. They include would be rappers attempting to “spit game,” a make out session (involving Woods) in a spare bedroom, a spontaneous fight, and the ritualistic gossiping and back-stabbing that are a fixture of any social gathering, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
Given the caliber of the cast and crew, it’s hard to pen point exactly where the individual parts of the whole fail to mesh. Suffice it to say that the end result is disjointed, failing to achieve the illusive “flow” so coveted by the hip hop generation. At the close of the film the viewer remains eager to see what the cast (and filmmakers) can do with a little more seasoning under their belts.
“It’s a Party” is making the rounds at various film festivals for future release, and is unrated, but contains brief nudity and excessive profanity.