It’s the early 1980’s; and the Deep Powder Alpine Country Club is a secret society at the savvy and prestigious New England boarding school, Mount Ambrose. The teenage members of this club—easily resembling Gossip Girl characters—enjoy skiing (both kinds); and, once a year, one lucky member makes a drug run to Ecuador for some high-grade cocaine. Based on true events, Deep Powder follows the dramatic final year of this club and the resulting investigation into their illicit actions.
This winter of 1983, the privilege of the drug run falls to Natasha (Haley Bennett), a beautiful girl with an unhealthy disregard for the rules—think Serena van der Woodsen but in wooly snowflake sweaters (so many snowflake sweaters!). She has bewitched the heart of her very own Lonely Boy, Danny (Shiloh Fernandez), much to the chagrin of her semi-boyfriend Kaz (Josh Salatin)—a lethal combination of Nate Archibald looks and Chuck Bass personality. Kaz wants to accompany Natasha on her trip, but she’s feeling extra reckless this winter and recruits outsider Danny instead. The poor guy has been working a ski lift for the last two years, trying to raise college money, while his mother has impertinently spent the last two years using his savings to pay for their family’s needs and scoffing at Danny’s dreams of college education. So when Natasha offers him her half of the money for the trip, he sees it as his chance to get out of his snowy nonexistence.
From there we can just see how everything will go terribly wrong. Natasha’s friend warns her that airport security is stepping up their game (they’ve done drug busts in two other major airports so JFK is surely next). Danny’s work buddy shows him some cool new skis that are hollow inside—perfect for smuggling drugs! And who would suspect a young couple traveling to South America for some Christmastime volcano skiing of having ulterior motives? So, of course, they get caught; but Danny has chivalrously put the drugs in his own skis to protect Natasha (despite the fact that she would face less punishment because she is under 18). Will Natasha let Danny be the scapegoat for her secret club’s crime? Or will she step up and take the blame for what she has done? Or will Danny turn on those prep schoolers to give them their just desserts? (And don’t forget that when a frozen lake appears in act one, someone is bound to fall through it later.)
Director Mo Ogrodnik actually experienced the real events on which this film is based. She more closely resembled the Danny character, looking into this glamorous world of the wealthy elite. Teaming with her writer husband Matt Bardin, they developed the script for Deep Powder. Although she twisted and slanted many of the elements for the film, what she kept in tact was this coming-of-age cautionary look at the “shattered...invincibility of youth.” They were able to use her own personal experiences to inform the relationships and consequences that result from the choices these young people make. And, despite the intrinsic thriller elements of the film, she very much wanted this to be a drama focused on the teenagers.
As great as the story for the film is, what gives Deep Powder its real edge is the production team of Killer Films. Headed by uber-producer Christine Vachon, she and her Killer Films team helped shape the gritty look and tone of the film (especially music supervisor Randall Poster whose sound for the film was remarkably 80s while still sounding fresh). Vachon’s skills and talent are undisputed (just see Party Monster, Boys Don’t Cry, or Far From Heaven); and the Tribeca Film Festival seems to be acutely aware of it because they have three of her films this year (check out Bluebird and At Any Price). And although this is the lesser of her three TFF films, anything with her name attached is worth seeing.