The title of “All Together Now” speaks directly to this odd but likable little picture’s infectious, inclusive spirit. A “hangout” movie in the truest sense, set in and around a multi-act punk/noise rock concert, first-time director Alexander Mirecki’s loosely constructed hybrid of music docu and coming-of-age drama follows a couple dozen teens, twentysomethings and chaperoning middle-agers as they drift in and out of each other’s lives over a few brief hours in the woods, illuminated by the flickering bonfire light. Though its ambitions are modest, “All Together Now” casts an undeniable spell, of which fests with an eye toward microbudget emerging helmers should take particular note.
The concert is the brainchild of Ron (indie stalwart Lou Taylor Pucci), a promoter so soft-spoken and easygoing he might easily be mistaken for a spectator. The actual ticket holders — though it’s not even clear that there are tickets — run the gamut from the visibly “alt” (in their dyed hair and piercings) to the decidedly prep (or is that retro prep?), an assortment of kids and kids-at-heart who recall the ones directors Jeff Krulik and John Heyn found tailgating a Judas Priest concert in their seminal 1986 short “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.”
There’s Ron’s friend Richard (Will Watkins), a human-rights activist who’s been recruited into keeping an eye on his boss’s teen daughter (Hannah Sullivan) and her two gay guy pals (Martin Yribarren and Dalton O’Dell). A couple of bros (Ryan Melander and Matt Weiner) awkwardly try to put the moves on two older babes (Amanda Kimmel and Nora Kirkpatrick). Lovestruck Sam (Morgan Krantz) wants to be more than just friends with Michelle (Lindsey Garrett), who herself only has eyes for Ron. And the movie’s requisite Spicoli/Wooderson arrives in the form of James Duval’s Zeke, who aspires to end the night with a bang — by launching a large anvil 200 feet into the air.
Mirecki, who also co-wrote “All Together Now” with fellow USC film-school grad Ryan Kasmiskie, doesn’t do the expected thing and narrow in on two or three main characters, instead juggling his sprawling, Altmanesque ensemble for all the pic’s brief 82-minute running time. But Kasmiskie has obvious gifts for characterization — as do most of his actors — and so we come away with a pretty good sense of who these people are, or at least (this being the world of malleable teen identities) who they’re trying to be.
Mirecki’s conceit, doubtless gleaned from firsthand experience, is that at gatherings like this, the real action happens far from the main stage (or in this case, the main corrugated tin shed), wherever eager warm bodies can find some fleeting privacy. So “All Together Now” largely follows suit, keeping the actual concert footage (of real “noise” acts including Manicorn and Pedestrian Depot) relatively brief. Which may be just as well, given that the music under discussion is an acquired taste — so screeching and atonal they make the Sex Pistols sound like easy listening. Pic humorously adds one fictional act to the roster: a father-son death metal act called Possessed (played by James Burns and Jerry Phillips), who momentarily spoil everyone’s good vibrations when a technical snafu sends dad on a rampage wielding a large samurai sword. Yep, it’s that kind of night.
The movie’s true musicality lies in Mirecki and cinematographer Zoran Popvic’s lyrical handheld camerawork, much of it shot with low levels of available light, effortlessly pulling us into the communal happening vibe. But “All Together Now” is ultimately better seen than described. As one of its own characters might say: You had to be there.