The same 10 Stanford University students that filmmakers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine traced through the tumult of freshman year in 1993’s “Frosh: Nine Months in a Freshman Dorm” get a senior re-evaluation in “Now & Then.” Despite its commensurate length, new docu comes off as less a stand-alone equal to the poignant, insightful original than an amiable footnote. As a result, its theatrical career may be more limited, most likely to rep-house pairings with the first film; duo will make a fine broadcast package. Pic opens Oct. 1 at several Bay Area arthouses.
A diverse lot in gender, racial and economic background, the 10 young adults chosen by helmers made for engaging company in “Frosh” as they went through the usual freshman trials and discoveries — facing fierce academic challenges and first-time separation from family, formulating career goals, social networks and philosophic stances.
Four years later, many of those early steps in self-definition have passed their expiration date: For instance, onetime sorority pledge Debbie decided Greek society was making her a judgmental “monster” and quit it while becoming a feminist studies major.
Once such inseparable buddies that they were “accused” by hallmates of being gay, Chris and Gerardo have since grown far apart. Erstwhile touchingly awkward Sam has become a “big man on campus,” president of his frat and the basketball team’s manager. Monique, who nearly dropped out freshman year, graduates in African-American studies while winning a community-service award; her friend Brandi, on the other hand, decides during senior year to leave school for the time being.
Bright and likable, these subjects continue to impress with their evolving values, ambition and honesty. But where “Frosh” engrossingly observed them moving through changes, “Now & Then” delivers on its title with less depth — basically the feature keeps intercutting between archival freshman footage and senior-year updates.
The new shifts observed are interesting, but they’re commented upon rather than observed in-progress. Though fine on its own terms, sequel just doesn’t have “Frosh’s” sustained character involvement or emotional impact. Nor would it likely prove rewarding for viewers who haven’t seen the original doc.
Pacing is brisk, tech work accomplished; transferred to 16mm, vid-shot feature will look more at home on the small screen.