“Little Athens” is most reminiscent of “Go,” that hip late-’90s indie hit that followed several groups of young adults over the course of one tumultuous weekend. In both films, the central characters do not learn anything or become more enlightened people at the end; they simply experience all this wearying excitement and then go home for some much-needed sleep.
The crucial difference between the films — and the reason one is good while the other is bad — is that “Go” was funny, while “Little Athens” is a stone-faced drama. A movie in which the protagonists do not have character arcs, in which they do not “go” anywhere, needs to be a comedy. Otherwise, why are we watching it?
With a little more work, “Little Athens,” written and directed by Tom Zuber, could have been a comedy, and perhaps even a good one. Many of its characters have the potential to be worth following.
Spread among four subplots are a variety of post-high-school residents of Athens, Ariz., a boring town in the throes of summer. There is Jimmy (John Patrick Amedori), a baby-faced pizza delivery guy who, having lost his secondary job, must find new ways of paying off his gambling debts. This means he needs to step up his tertiary job, which is selling drugs. Lucky for him, his supplier is sitting dead in his own apartment, so Jimmy can take his stash for free.
There is Jessica (Jill Ritchie), a woefully neglectful volunteer in the Big Sister program, whose violent boyfriend Aaron (Kenny Morrison) thinks she is cheating on him. Her platonic friend Carlos (Michael PeÃ±a) chauffeurs her around town, trying to clear her name (though, to be fair, she DID cheat on him).
There are Pedro (Jorge Garcia) and Corey (DJ Qualls), pool boys at a country club who have been evicted from their home because they can’t pay the rent.
There is Heather (Erica Leerhsen), a hypochondriac whose cop boyfriend Derek (Eric Szmanda) is cheating on her with her best friend Allison (Rachel Miner).
This collage of useless 20-year-olds converge on the same house party in the film’s final act, where everything comes to a head and where everyone most decidedly gains nothing from the day’s experiences. This is the scene where, if this were a comedy, events would spiral madly into a frenzy of hilarious climaxes and resolutions. But since it is not a comedy, everything just sort of ends, as unengagingly as any other scene in the movie.
Even a movie without a “point” needs to have a purpose, you see. To make us laugh, to scare us, to intrigue us, something. “Little Athens” does not appear to have one. These characters, even if they are familiar and realistic, give us no reason to watch them, much less to care about what happens to them. I guess the danger of telling a story about people who are bored is that it might be boring.
C- (1 hr., 44 min.; )