So, I’m apparently continuing my trend of watching and reviewing semi-obscure movies for, you know, the entire fall season. (When Mortal Kombat is probably the most well-known movie you’ve reviewed in the past three months, you’re diving into some special territory.)
I knew very little about The First Time going into it, beyond who was in it and the synopsis. Thus, I didn’t really know how to set my expectations, which can be both good and bad.
Good, because without any preconceived notions, you’re not really judging a movie based on how it meets them. Bad, because not knowing what to expect can sometimes end in tears and asking “WHY, GOD, WHY?”
Fortunately, The First Time turned out to be good, and I’m glad I took the chance on it.
Spoilers ahead, because I’m going to talk about the end of the movie.
Dave (Dylan O’Brien) has been in love with Jane (Victoria Justice), the most beautiful girl in school, for years, and now they only have one month left until graduation. At one random Friday night party, he’s trying to figure out how to tell her how he feels when he meets Aubrey (Britt Robertson) in a back alley. (He’s practicing a speech. It makes sense in context.) Over the course of the weekend, Dave and Aubrey fumble their way through an unexpected romance and possibly even into an actual relationship.
The first hour of the movie was funny and surprisingly cute without ever coming across as treacly. Aubrey and Dave have some adorably awkward getting-to-know-you conversations. I liked watching them come around to acknowledging how much they were attracted to each other.
Aubrey’s blunt and almost abrasive at times, and definitely tends toward the snarkier side. She seemed to keep Dave on his toes, and by the actual end of their first meeting it was almost like “Jane? Jane who?”
My biggest problem with Dave is that there were times he came very close to being a Nice Guy, particularly in regards to Jane but a very little bit toward Aubrey. He never quite crossed the line, but it got close enough that it made me go “ugh.” Because I don’t want the main character of a movie to turn into a character type I hate.
Fortunately, Aubrey calls him on it. I liked how she shut Dave down at one point with a great mini-girl power speech—”I just have to make it from here to there on my own terms.” (Yes, sweetie, yes you do, that is exactly right and don’t ever let anybody tell you differently.)
I liked that she flat-out asked him why she shouldn’t do it her way, putting the responsibility on Dave to admit that he has feelings for her.
However, the conversation after they have sex (not a spoiler; it’s called The First Time) had me yelling at the screen, “You’re two teenage virgins! Of course the first time is going to suck; NEITHER OF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING. No, don’t…don’t do that, don’t…ah, God, you’re both idiots.”
Believable? Yes. Frustrating? Oh boy howdy. I could see that whole conflict working better for an audience that hasn’t had sex (or at least, not much of it), but for my friend and me, the urge to smack sense into the characters was nigh overwhelming.
Fortunately, both Dave and Aubrey (separately) recognized how much they’d screwed up, which helped mitigate my initial frustration with their fight.
Overall, it was a sweet movie, with none of the usual tropes that annoy me with romantic comedies. While I don’t know that it would convert anyone to the genre, I liked it well enough to watch it more than once.