I’m not entirely sure how long it took me to accept the facts that I’m now a parent and that my life has significantly changed in many ways as a result. But when it did sink in, it hit me hard. I realized that much of my freedom was not, in fact, going to return any time soon. I also realized that my days of hanging out in smoky rock clubs, going deaf to the soundtrack of indie rock bands turned up to eleven and drinking with my friends had been replaced by arranged dinners and play dates with parents of kids that my kids liked. And my evenings, once spent staying up late writing, goofing off, making music—all gone in favor of the elusive and rarely consistent sleep.
The Waiting List, a completely indie film produced in Portland, OR, is the Catcher in the Rye for Generation X parents. Written by director/producer, Mike Vogel while he was a stay-at-home dad, the film takes the perspective of parenting that many parents would never express out loud. The idea that it’s okay to love our kids and do things for them we wouldn’t even do for ourselves, but also okay to feel or express regret over our losses of freedom is a sentiment that is not often communicated in modern media. Using humor that ranges from raunchy to subtle, the film is a witty and sometimes edgy take on parenting in the 21st century.
The film itself takes place in a fictitious preschool where parents are required to spend the night at the school to maintain their childrens’ spot on the waiting list. When this particular group of parents is united, we discover that they all have regrets, issues, anxieties and complaints about being parents, which ends up being the common bond that joins them all together. I’ve seen this film compared to The Breakfast Club—and rightfully so—because it locks a group of varied personalities into a room together and forces them to communicate, commiserate and to understand one another. I can totally see that comparison. But it also has elements of a great Woody Allen film or even a Kevin Smith film, with pointed monologues and witty, complex dialog, respectively.
However, more than just a bunch of comparisons, this film is the launching pad for Mike Vogel, who demonstrates that he is a filmmaker with his own unique voice and style. Woven throughout the humor, one can also find some sincere sentiments, betrayal, emotional conflict and young parents making amends with what their lives have become.
The cast is great, with impressive performances by Audrey Walker as the reluctant mother, Jayme S Hall as the comedic stay-at-home dad, Bryce Flint-Somerville as Ben the workaholic troubled husband, Amada Englund as the scheming Kathryn and Teresa Decher as the potentially pregnant teen, Ella. Mercedes Rose also puts in a great performance as the modern day schoolmarm who debriefs the parents on their upcoming night’s mission. Never overstated or melodramatic, the acting is incredibly well-done for an indie film. Each member of the cast is great in his or her own way, putting out natural performances that are convincing and never forced.
The cinematography and editing, for a low budget film, were also well done. There were some genuinely beautiful shots of Portland and some excellent stylized transitions to cut between scenes. I’d also be remiss to leave out the soundtrack, which had a unique and fitting style to it. This film is clearly a labor of love, with no details left to spare.
Is The Waiting List right for you? In short, any parent who’s been forced to sit through Dora the Explorer, watch endless princess movies, strike up awkward conversations at play dates or just generally wonder why they do the things they do for their kids will be able to relate to this film. On an entirely different level, the film has also reminded me that as parents, we can (and need to) carve out time to do things for ourselves or we can’t be good parents. We need to get out with our friends once in awhile, work on our hobbies, do the things that make us ourselves or we become someone we’re not familiar with, someone we may not want raising our children.
If you’re a parent, or hell, if you simply love indie films, keep an eye on the film’s web site for upcoming showings. Next one up is at the Eugene Film Festival and Mike Vogel says he’s trying to get a Portland screening going soon. Did I mention it won for best local feature film at the Washougal International Film Festival this year? Yep. Do check this out if you get the opportunity. And if you don’t, make it happen some other way.