Unless they are really punchy or somehow overly clever, indie films, in my book, invariably come in second to big studio offerings because I have a hard time overlooking the hit production value takes in the editing, the camera work and even the action. Watching Life of the Party helped me remember this fact as it slowly meandered through a former college track star's degeneration into alcoholism and potential rehabilitation.
For a moment, it was reminiscent of another independent release, Eulogy, starring Ray Romano, where light is made of a dysfunctional yet colorful family gathering to pay last respects to its fallen patriarch. The difference is that where the 2004 funeral film brought wit and offbeat humor, this one, which could've easily tried the same route and called it Intervention, took a left turn at almost funny (or almost inspiring) and headed south on the interstate.
The plus sides of this movie are an interesting lead in Eion Bailey--think Paul Rudd meets a young Tim Matheson, with most of the quirky charm of both; one out of three college buddies with acting talent in Clifton Collins, Jr.; and a small percentage of TV's Grey's Anatomy (Grey herself, Ellen Pompeo, and McDreamy's famed haircut on Bailey).
Unfortunately, at times, it almost feels like you're watching something on the Lifetime Network. And if that is any indication, this picture didn't do anything to bolster the bad names of indie flicks in my book.