"Vacationland" will win no Oscar, as it certainly lacks in both directoral and scripting substance. The acting however, is both genuine and convincing with particularly strong performances from Brad Hallowell (Joe) and Gregory J. Lucas (Andrew).
The story is based in Bangor, Maine which seemingly lacks any energy or flavor (my apologies to those that live there). If anything the city seems dull, drab and bordering on decay. Its inhabitants seem to go from one moment to another, with no real purpose or direction. Alcohol, drug and physical abuse seem endemic, and each character seems to be inherently flawed. Yet amongst this societal decay emerges a sincere love story between two high school friends, who having known each other through the years have unwittingly fallen in love. Being part of the normative (dare I say such) surrounds, they initially deny their feelings for each other, until a rather dominant girlfriend insists they confront their homosexuality. She is far from polite, using threats and condesension as a means of getting her way. Threatening to expose the football jock (Andrew) as a 'gay', she demands he continue going out with her whilst at the same time admitting his feelings for Joe. Despite her selfish desire to be seen as the head cheerleader going out with the cutest boy in school, she ultimately forces both Andrew and Joe to acknowledge the truth of themselves, and a sincere love emerges as a result.
The connection between the two actors is electric, and extremely titalating in its effect on the story as a whole. Their portrayal is raw, passionate and convincing. This is in my opinion is what saves the movie, and one ends up looking past the profoundly bad editing, scripting, directing and casting.
For example (and to mention but a few): Joe's mother looks all of 23 years of age, and lacks any credibility as a woman playing his mother. Similarly, Joe's French teacher looks better suited as a member of the class than he does the faculty. His sister seems to be an unnecessary irritation, and her story and tribulations really serves no purpose to the story. The sound was terrible in parts, and I found it extremely difficult to hear much of the dialogue. At the same time some of the screen shots seemed disjointed and amateur, failing to capitalize successfully on both the physical and emotional strengths of the two leads.
Despite which, there seems to be something genuine and sincere about the story. My impression is that whoever wrote it included some of his own experiences, together with some of the innocent emotion and power they had over him at the time. Elements have however, been clumsily included which negate much of what he is attempting to convey. Again the saving grace is the two leads, who seems to transcend the movie and its weaknesses, and convince despite the movie.
For this reason I cannot love "Vactionland", but at the same time I cannot hate it. lovely in its sincerity, and almost convincing in its emotion. Brad Halowell in particular, was a voyeuristic dream.