Ham On Rye (Tyler Taormina, 2019)

 
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What’s This All About

Kids get ready for prom night, but are they ready for what’s coming next? Are they ready for real life?

The Breakfast Diner Club

We teens think the world orbits around us and, therefore, make a drama out of everything. We’re self-centred, exaggerated and terribly shallow. Failing an exam, falling on the floor in front of the whole class or not being invited to a birthday party by our teen crush can make us feel like it’s the end of the world. Who cares about recession or the rise of totalitarianism when you’re not allowed to play video games for a month? I mean, honestly, for a month? What kind of heartless parents are those?

For most of Americans, going to their prom night can be the most meaningful experience when they graduate from high school, and Tyler Taormina makes this social event a turning point in the lives of the movie’s characters. Literally. Missing the party or not going with a chaperone can have drastic consequences in Ham On Rye. It might not be the end of the world, but it is the end of their lives: they become outcasts, get stuck in dead-end jobs and are rejected by their families. 

Ham on Rye not only parodies teen movies—especially those John Hughes productions—but also puts into question the so-called American dream and what society expects from their youths. The movie reminds us in a twisted, caricature-like way that our lives, despite media constantly telling us otherwise, are not tragic even if only ten people showed up at our birthday or our lover forgot to buy us a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

Even though Ham On Rye perfectly captures the awkwardness of being a teen and the discouragement of becoming an adult, the movie is far from being a masterpiece as it severely lacks a better character development, more incisive dialogues and punchier jokes. Despite this bearable weak spots, we should be grateful to Taormina for giving such adventurous and good-natured debut.

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Spoiler Area

What starts as an ethereal but silly story completely changes into something darker halfway through. It’s a risky decision as some distracted viewers might abandon the screening before everything starts making sense, but the twist ultimately pays off.

The Moment

The overly luminescent mirrorball that tells us that this is not your typical prom night and definitely not your typical teen movie.

The Quote

Gwen, I’m so good. Life is so good. Honestly, everything is so good.

Teens were never good with words or sharing their feelings.

Recommended for

Those who were deemed losers at high school and know now that, yeah, it gets better.

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Good Companion Pieces

  • Comparisons with The Myth of the American Sleepover (David Robert Mitchell, 2010) and Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1995) might seem obvious and unfair as Ham on Rye has clearly different intentions, but all three films have a more sensitive approach to what it was like during our teenage years.

MVP (cast)

Its large cast of non-professional actors gives the movie its much needed charm. They all seem to have fun playing these adorable dorks, but, with the exception of a delicate Haley Bodell, no one really stands out from the rest as no other character does either.

MVP (crew)

Deuter’s score does give you several hints throughout the first half that this is not a simple, innocent movie and that there’s something strange lurking from the distance.

For Your Consideration

Best Director: Tyler Toarmina - Best Cinematography: Carson Lund - Best Editing: Kevin Anton - Best Costume Design: Niki Firanek - Best Music: Deuter - Best Production Design - Best Ensemble Cast of Non-Professional Actors