AW Kautzer's Film Review Film

Film Review: Theater Camp (2023) 

Theater Camp

Ben Platt and Molly Gordon star in the charming faux doc comedy Theater Camp.

You don’t have to love theater or have been to theater camp to enjoy the wonderful new comedy Theater Camp based on the short film by Molly Gordon & Nick Lieberman who also co-wrote and directed the feature.  

Everyone remembers the joys, pains, and embarrassments of Summer Camp.  It could be a sports camp or boy scout/girl scout camp or any Summer Camp for that matter. There are Universal truths about going away for the summer that everyone can relate to.  Theater Camp dives into the wonderful and eccentric world of performing arts.  Not only the young who attend but those that run and keep the camp afloat.  It is in that dramaturgy that Theater Camp provides both laughs and heart in equal measure so uniquely delightfully unexpected that audiences will not be surprised if they return to the film in the way that many return to the Cultish Comedies of Christopher Guest or Drop Dead Gorgeous.  

The film focuses on a rather tumultuous time at the camp as the Owner of the AdirondACTS Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris) has fallen into a coma after a freak accident with strobe lights during a performance.  This leaves AdirondACTS in the care of self-proclaimed “Crypto-Finance-Influencer” and Joan’s son, Troy (Jimmy Tatro) much to the chagrin of Senior Counselors Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Gordon).  As Amos and Rebecca-Diane try to mount the various plays, Troy becomes very aware he is not only in over his head but Jane left behind some serious debt he cannot pay off.  As tensions begin to mount for Troy, they do for Amos and Rebecca-Diane for very different reasons.  For the Counselors their co-dependent love-hate decades-long friendship may finally be over.  For Troy, it may be the end of what his mother worked so hard and long to build.  

With any Faux Documentary, much of the success depends on the flexibility of the cast and crew to create a world that feels its bleeding over the frame.  Gordon and Lieberman seem to have the knack for world-building in the way that Guest and the best of the best that work in this specific genre do.  They like any good documentary filmmaker have an empathy for their subjects that allow them to show even the worst behavior along with the good.  The result is a film that doesn’t feel “faux” but rather a real documentary with all the messy drama that comes along with the best the form (eg documentaries) can offer. 

Platt and Gordon are exceptional as lifelong devotees of AdirondACTS. Their Amos and Rebecca-Diane are ego-driven, shallow, mean, and delusional … and we love them every second they’re on screen.  It’s not just that they get the “joke”, but they understand Amos and Rebecca-Diane on a human level and always give them their dignity.  Though they are the heart of the film, Jimmy Tatro and Noah Galvin steal the show as Troy and Glen.  Galvin’s Glen the long-suffering “Stage Manager” of AdirondACTS starts off as almost a visual gag in the background but slowly and surely enters center stage.  The moments between Galvin’s Glenn and Tatro’s Troy are some of the best crowd-pleasing and hilarious moments in a film filled with both.  

In a Summer filled with bombast, excitement, explosions, and multiverses, Theater Camp eschews all of that Pomp and Circumstance.  Though giving us the same Crowd-Pleasing results as any of the big-budget studio event films of 2023.  In short, go see Theater Camp with a big crowd.  It won’t disappoint.  

Theater Camp is in theaters July 14th

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