Last Call

Fear and anxiety of the real world of work and responsibility underlines Last Call, an intermittently buoyant campus comedy revolving around five male buddies. Though poorly produced, film's engaging premise, occasionally inspired writing and disarmingly acting will increase its prospects for a limited theatrical distribution in college towns, with the late teens and twentysomething crowd as strong potential viewers.

Five college seniors share a legendary party house known as “El Rancho Grande.” On the surface they seem an unlikely team, for they differ in personality and career orientation. Nonetheless, one major issue unites them: Trepidation of terminating the fun life they have had as students.

Set on and around the University of California, Santa Cruz, just days before graduation, the pain of leaving the security of campus life becomes all the more acute as decision must be made of whether or not to maintain the household. Protagonist–and narrator–Jack (Ben Affleck), an uncertain sculptor who's still tormented by losing his long-time girlfriend, makes a strong case for taking another year of moratorium.

But his comrades are not so sure: Acerbic Dennis (French Stewart) plans to begin grad school in Michigan; Rob (Sam Rockwell) is about moving to L.A. with his g.f.; African-American Mickey (Vinnie DeRamus) is a gifted cartoonist at a crossroads; and Asian-American Slosh (Vien Hong) works in a pizzeria, but has higher artistic goals.

Arguing about the future, while never stopping beer-guzzling and partying, comedy proceeds toward its anti-climax, the graduation ceremony, which is attended by their parents. There's a funny, heart-wrenching scene between Jack and his yuppie, bourgeois parents (the father is played tongue-in-cheek by offbeat actor Spalding Gray, who's shrewdly cast against type) which epitomizes the communication gap between the generations.

Problem is the movie makes its funny points early on, which means that second half is basically an elaboration. But if the loose, anecdotal pic sometimes rumbles and loses its main line, eventually it rights itself. And there is enough in the film that is inventive and spiked with fresh, nasty humor to compensate for the dull moments.

Direction by neophyte Wilkes' is awkward, lacking any visual flair. Tech credits of pic, which will benefit from a trimming of 10 to 15 minutes, are below-adequate on what appears to be a modestly-budgeted effort. Nonetheless, unlike many new movies by young directors, Last Call is not mindless–its banter does concern real issues. The scene in which Jack desperately pleas his former g.f. to love him at once underlines his attraction to her, but also the natural tendency to cling to what's familiar–and fear of the unknown.