Set in the socially conscious and disaffected society of an elite high school. Zack (Alex Russell), a member of the cool clique, and Darren (Oliver Ackland), a geeky kid, are step brothers who occupy opposite ends of the school hierarchy. Bullied by the cool kids, Darren finds himself forced to act when his tormentors go too far by drugging and assaulting his best friend Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens). After being left for dead in the middle of nowhere, Xandrie suddenly makes a surprise return to school that sets off a chain reaction of events. What begins as the devastation and implosion of Xandrie’s world soon threatens to trigger the implosion of the whole social hierarchy as Zack tries to manipulate the facts of that night and Darren sets off to disillusion the masses that put Zack on his elitist pedestal in the first place. Soon, the brothers’ lives are at the mercy of the opinions of their classmates.
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: Ben C. Lucas' Wasted on the Young is every bit as vapid, venal and venomous as the characters that populate its landscape. With no discernible quality on show in any of the skills that one would normally associate with a major film festival entrant, it's inclusion as an early evening programme choice in Sydney is particularly odd. Its post-production pretension and undercooked script is far better suited to a late-night screening at one of the underground film events, where a crowd more forgiving of genre clichés and film school posing may draw some pleasure from its underlying nastiness.
The focus of Lucas' debut feature is the familial and social chasm that exists between two step-brothers – awkward and introspective Darren (Oliver Ackland) and private school alpha-male Zack (Alex Russell). When Zack and his followers drug and rape Darren’s sweetheart Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens, easily the film's greatest asset), the mystery of what really happened and the potential impact upon the group dynamic as it exists within the hallowed halls of private high-school society is explored, albeit haphazardly.
Lucas dabbles in flashback and fantasy sequences to spice up a stagnant narrative trajectory, as well as such hoary old cinematic chestnuts as slow-motion, over-exposure, jump-cuts and 'dreamy' underwater photography – all with little or no relevance or dramatic impact other than the most visual. Even his decision to type, on-screen, the text messages as characters send them feels old. The ludicrous amount of over-staging in the extended party sequences, already tiresome due to a constantly thumping soundtrack and the characters need to shout above the din, turns a suburban house into a rave mansion and reeks of a crass over-indulgence that infuses the production.
Owing way too much to better films such as Rob Cohen's The Skulls (2000), Gus Van Sant's Elephant (2003) and Steven Vidler’s Blackrock (1997), Wasted on the Young takes as its point-of-difference the modern teenager's reliance upon and utter faith in current forms of communication – primarily texting, online social networks and camera-phone technology. Apart from running the risk of dating the film very quickly, it also means that main characters spend a lot of time hunched over mobiles or staring at computer screens. The revenge-fantasy denouement amounts to a ridiculously OTT net-geek wet dream and underpins the fatal weakness in Lucas' script – a disgust for all the characters he has created. The villain and his henchmen are utterly evil, the 'hero' is a closet psychopath; mired in an entirely mirthless milieu and with no message to impart, Wasted on the Young is a horrid film-going experience.
There may be those that claim Lucas' embracing of advanced home-computing and mobile technologies as all-encompassing plot devices does speak directly to the audience this film wants to attract; that for the modern teen, these are the predominant forms of communication. If that is the case, then release it to those formats only; at time of going to print, cinema is still about a great deal more than anything Wasted on the Young has to offer.