Willa Holland, currently best known for her work on the TV series The O.C. is super pretty: she's got that long dark hair and those big, big eyes. Watching her in Jason Freeland's ensemble indie Garden Party, I was pleasantly reminded of a young Fairuza Balk, who gained an unshakable place in my film-watching heart with her tender and terrific performance in Allison Anders's Gas, Food, Lodging (1992).
Holland plays April, a resourceful fifteen-year-old girl who strikes out on her own after rejecting advances from her lecherous stepfather. She's the one good thing about Garden Party
-- not because of her performance (which is neither good or bad) but for that nostalgia she evoked in me for young Fairuza. Not that Fairuza hasn't continued to do excellent work: it's impossible to forget her as Sapphire in Almost Famous
(2000), ramming into a pole while chasing the tour bus, or more recent work in Wim Wender's Don't Come Knocking
or Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity
Otherwise, I don't have anything kind to say about Garden Party. The entire production feels amateur: from the acting to the preposterous, over-complicated script. I'm surprised the film, about a cast of unappealing characters in Hollywood, an assortment of inarticulate run-aways, unsavory pornographers, a pot-dealing real estate agent, and a character blatantly ripped off of Entourage's Ari Gold, was able to secure itself a release in an actual theater.
Garden Party (2008)
Starring: Vinessa Shaw, Willa Holland, Richard Gunn, Patrick Fischler, Fiona Dourif
Directed by: Jason Freeland
Produced by: Tim Youd
Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: July 11th, 2008 (limited)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributors: Roadside Attractions