Film Review: The First Time

This comedy about two teens losing their virginity aims for hilarity but instead achieves ho-hum status.

Dave (Dylan O’Brien) and Aubrey (Britt Robertson) meet up in an alleyway on a Friday night after escaping a tired party. Despite their put-on sophistication and attitude, both are virgins, and both profess to being interested in other people. Nonetheless, they do a wary mating dance around each other, with the result that he chastely spends the night at her house, chatting away, but flees out the window in the morning.

Early on, in this flat treatment of a subject we’ve all seen too many times before, Aubrey says something which truly threw me out of any possible way of relating to this film. Having heard that she was a junior, I assumed she meant college. When it became apparent that she was referring to high school, all belief in The First Time immediately ceased. Her Aubrey is simply the most jaded, been-around-the-block-looking and acting 16-year-old there could be.

Writer-director Jonathan Kasdan doesn’t help matters by planting a plethora of lines in her mouth that are meant to convey clever precocity (“Your balls are vibrating, my friend”), but could more easily have issued from the most hardened hooker imaginable. Similarly, when she goes all doe-like and announces that her favorite time of the day is after school, lying on her bedroom carpet in the sunlight, making collages, all you can think is, “Shouldn’t you be moving out soon?” O’Brien, bland as he is, is more convincing as a teenager, but his model looks belie the film’s assumption that he cannot possibly compete with his school’s male babes for the affections of the popular girl he lusts after.

With this kind of miscasting, there is absolutely no suspense or audience investment in seeing these two pop their cherries, a theme that was so much more convincingly and amusingly handled in Can’t Hardly Wait. A sex comedy without a whit of sensuality, The First Time offers up an occasional funny, snarky line, but these are outweighed by far more mediocre stabs at humor. Unhelpful to the comedy as well are Dave’s unlikely sidekicks, the British, aggressively un-amusing, John Lennon-ish Daldry (Craig Robertson) and the whimsically but disastrously named Big Corporation (LaMarcus Tinker), a stereotypical huge black football jock of few words.

There’s a big comic set-piece, predictably occurring in that ground zero of teen mating settings, the mall cineplex. Aubrey nixes her date’s desire to see an Almodóvar film with “I’m not in the mood for subtitles.” Instead, despite Kasdan’s setting her up as sensitive and arty underneath her brittle exterior, she chooses a mindlessly violent piece of anonymous trash, one more reason to not fall in love with her.