Tea Party

By Emily Shesh | Drama
A group of teenagers play 'Truth or Dare' about their burgeoning sexuality.

Five best friends have just months to go before they start high school. All of them are on the verge of growing up -- whatever growing up means, that is.

During one of their hangouts, a game of Truth or Dare goes awry once 40 ounces of beer -- and a dose of jealousy and competitiveness -- get introduced into the mix, threatening to change their dynamic forever.

Writer-director Emily Shesh's keenly sharp yet sensitive drama captures the sometimes perilous transition into womanhood that girls go through, especially as they navigate increasingly complex yet subterranean social dynamics, not to mention entrance into a highly sexualized society.

Through deft writing and camerawork, this drama short is attentive to the choppy waters of female adolescence, and the way friendships between girls can be both supportive and treacherous, often in the same conversation.

All the girls are facing the same precipice and a whole new realm of experience and expectations. Despite their insecurities and trepidation, they often feign a confidence and savoir faire that they don't necessarily feel, often as a way to solidify their place and power in the group.

The film charts these constant shifts and feints between the girls over the course of one social event, and the tension and challenges that build up between them can often be both slightly horrifying and hilarious all at once. As a result, the dialogue is often funny, sometimes raunchy but always done with great intelligence and attention paid to the way girls really speak to one another.

But these friends still find refuge in their group in unexpected moments, especially as the insecurities and issues bubble up, and viewers increasingly realize that these girls often pretend to be grown up as a defense mechanism in a world that places outsized expectations on them, ones that they're not ready or truly willing to meet. The films' performances from the ensemble cast deftly navigates the terrain between bravado and vulnerability, finding subtlety, humor and honesty in the process.

While it sometimes has its subtly satirical moments about female competition, "Tea Party" is a story that takes the emotional life of tween and teen girls seriously, often charting how friendships can push us into self-discovery and self-expression in unexpected ways. Funny and frank in its unvarnished take on the teenage slumber party, it offers a fresh, emotionally perceptive POV on coming of age -- always a tricky transition to go through, and always made more interesting, memorable and ultimately heartwarming with the help of a few good friends.

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