Short of the Week

Flagpole

Awkwardness ensues in this heartfelt and hilarious take on the universal experience of growing up.

There’s just something about the awkwardness of adolescence that makes it a ripe topic for film. As kids fumble through the transition from breezy kid indifference to “serious” adulthood, there is more than a fair share of relatable material to create both compelling comedy and drama. Flagpole, the Student Academy Award nominated film from director Matt Kazman, manages to perfectly convey this delightfully clumsy time—a slice-of-life teenage sex comedy where all the characters within can think of nothing but sex, but have neither the experience or knowledge to really do anything about it.

Zack, our gangly, dweeby hero is in love with Maddy. Well, perhaps he’s not “in love” as much as he is “in lust.” He fawns over her from afar silently watching and memorizing her every move. He’s not a stalker, just a dorky outsider struggling to survive amongst his peers. Schoolyard innuendo and rumor is the stuff of legend, providing brief glimpses of an exotic magical world that only a select few are privy to access.

From a strictly comedic standpoint, Flagpole delivers. The film drops us into the most uncomfortably hilarious situations possible. We watch with relatable horror as Zack finds himself firmly planted in Teenage Hell. But, there’s pathos amidst all the squirm-inducing comedic beats. Due to both its well-written script and the strong performances by the young leads, the film builds characters who you can’t help but feel for as they clumsily stumble through a decidedly confusing time, complete with erection euphemisms and high school power semantics. The kids act and talk like real teens—I think it’s safe to assume that director Matt Kazman is writing from experience.

The silences are as equally well structured as the dialogue itself. Long, awkward pauses are sprinkled into each interaction, fully representing teenagers who don’t know what to say just about as often as they do. It’s messily accurate, especially during the final scene where our nerdy protagonist confronts his long time crush. More is said by what is not, and that’s what makes the conclusion so fulfilling.

Flagpole, has been well recognized on both the festival circuit and online. It’s the rare sort of film that manages to cater to both sorts of audiences—accessible enough for the mainstream web video crowd, yet filled with enough artistic merit to collect impressive laurel leaves. And, perhaps that has something to do with the film’s relatability. In this particular case, we may just be bystanders to Zack’s teenage trauma, but it’s easy enough to remember a time when we too were just as confused, wondering ourselves if the girl sitting next to us in class really did have salami nipples.

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Ivan is a filmmaker, video editor, and motion graphic artist from the Washington, DC area. He is an avid movie watcher and podcaster. He’s also quite handsome and charming (at least that's what his Mom says). For more information about Ivan, visit Lucky 9 Studios.
  • http://www.facebook.com/cory.gaskins Cory Lance Gunz Gaskins

    Overall pretty good but girls would never come on to guys like that! And what kind of a girl would come on to a guy after he does something like that? Pretty unplausible…. Seems like someone’s “high school life they never had”, like Twilight. 0/10.

  • http://www.lucky9studios.com/ Ivan Kander

    Interesting that you feel she was coming on to him at the end. I didn’t get that at all. She may be comforting him, but she’s certainly not coming on to him. She’s intrigued because someone has actually said something honest amongst a small group where no one actually says anything honest, and rather just pretends to be cool and in control. People act differently in front of pretty girls, especially true with teenage boys in high school and middle school. For once, someone actually verbalized what he was thinking without a filter, hence her interest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    The secret that no one tells high school boys is that girls are insecure too. They take interest in people who take interest in them. I saw lot’s of seemingly incongruous pairings that happened just because one side was forthright enough to say “i really like you”.

  • kamil

    I think a movie is pretty good one. We have to take into consideration fact, that theme was very dangerous, cose there are many hundreds of that kind of stories about young guys in high school etc. So it is easy way to fall into a cliché. But that one was ok. Also I feel big money there:)

  • http://www.facebook.com/cory.gaskins Cory Lance Gunz Gaskins

    V. true. Most people are insecure when they are in high school. But I don’t think girls shouting “Is that why you won’t let me suck you off” to the guy like the protagonist in this film is really plausible. Maybe there are sluttier high schools out there but that would have never happened at my school.

  • Jimmy

    Afraid i would have to say that although a part of this may be true, a member of the female gender is only ever going to cut a male some slack if there is some tiny, minusicule spark of some kind of physical attraction there. Fact. This piece still strikes me very much as wishful thinking on the part of the filmmaker as a male of the species. In a real high school – certainly in high schools which i went to – the guy would have practically be run out of town as a geek and moreover, a weirdo.

  • http://jammymonkey.wordpress.com/ Paul Duvall

    That final scene struck me as quite plausible. I didn’t think she was coming on to him – she was intrigued by his honesty. I liked the way that she was not only interested in those last two, childish lines of the ‘poem’, but also in the sweetness of everything that preceded it.

    She hugged him because she saw the honesty in his words and was intrigued that, in this landscape of testosterone and silliness, there was a nice guy who wanted to know what it would be like to hug her.

    Wishful thinking perhaps, but I really quite liked it.

  • Eva, Italy

    I did not find it so unplausible, but maybe it’s also a matter of different cultures :) Anyway, the young actors are outstanding.

  • Aaron from Honolulu

    I liked how glossy the film looked but I pretty much felt “meh” about the story. Racy dialogue, sexual situations, all involving teens: we’ve seen this before. I think we all know how painfully awkward high school can be but I didn’t feel this story had anything unique or new to say when it comes to the countless teenage driven films that have come before it.

  • Aaron from Honolulu

    I liked how glossy the film looked but I pretty much felt “meh” about the story. Racy dialogue, sexual situations, all involving teens: we’ve seen this before. I think we all know how painfully awkward high school can be but I didn’t feel this story had anything unique or new to say when it comes to the countless teenage driven films that have come before it.

  • badal

    i dont know why but me too had a flagpole !!

  • Patch

    I switched between thinking i) she was genuine ii) she was getting him to admit he wrote it to get him in trouble iii) and back to genuine

  • Kelle

    Overly discussed theme with cliché characters and dialogues, and not much originality, I think. Maybe it’s because my personal hate for shallow geeky characters who are obsessed with beautiful girls and how they are as shallow as rest of them. Naturally when they’re heros I end up getting bored with the film. He was honest about who he was but he was just a shallow and unemotional piece of shit. But again aren’t we all are. And other characters were also disgusting fucks which I presume was intentional. But again they were just annoying and had not much to contribute to the genre.

    Liked the color grading and shots though.