Candy Jar (2018)

Candy Jar
Director: Ben Shelton
Writer: Chad Klitzman
Cast: Jacob Latimore, Sami Gayle, Tom Bergeron, Helen Hunt, Paul Tigue, Austin Flynn, Blake Flynn, Christina Hendricks, Uzo Aduba
Seen on: 4.1.2020

Bennett (Jacob Latimore) and Lona (Sami Gayle) are constantly in competition with each other in school and on the debate team, as are their mothers Amy (Christina Hendricks) and Julia (Uzo Aduba) who couldn’t be more different. But when they run into trouble with their individual debates, the only way they can bolster their resumés for college is by teaming up. So, reluctantly and begrudgingly, they decide to go for cooperation instead of competition. Surprisingly, this works much better than either of them expected.

Candy Jar is a nice high school romance that manages to get a little off the beaten path – though it doesn’t stray too far. I enjoyed watching it.

The film poster showing Bennett (Jacob Latimore) and Lona (Sami Gayle) looking at each other in front of a blackboard and a lectern.

Usually, high school romances are more “jock meets nerd” stories than anything else. In this case, we get two nerds who have so much in common, it’s almost eerie – and therefore are so entrenched in their competition that they have more and wider chasms to gap than any of the jocks and nerds who are supposedly from two different worlds.

Not that they are the same person, despite all similarities. Here the script and both Latimore’s and Gayle’s performances are nuanced enough to work this. They are complemented by a very nice supporting cast, with Helen Hunt, Uzo Aduba and Christina Hendricks delivering nicely in their smaller roles.

Bennett (Jacob Latimore) and Lona (Sami Gayle) sitting next to each other in the prinicipal's office.

The most striking thing about it, for me, was the debate setting though. I know absolutely nothing about debates as they are handled in the USA (or pretty much anywhere else) and the glimpse into it we got here, was surpremely weird and absolutely fascinating for me. And I loved that the film makes such a strong argument for narration and comprehensibility instead of a robotic recitation of facts that makes the entire debate pointless.

Despite those good things, Candy Jar is not a film that I feel I will remember for a very long time. I don’t know if it’s just the fact that there are so many teen RomComs or if it’s just that there is a certain spark that is missing. Still, I definitely enjoyed it while it lasted – which already puts it ahead of many other films.

Lona (Sami Gayle) dressed up.

Summarizing: Enjoyable.

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