Monday, 21 October 2013

Review: The Kings of Summer

Year: 2013
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenplay: Chris Galletta
Starring: Nick Robinson, Nick Offerman, Alison Bree, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias

Synopsis is here

 Big confession here: I’m not the biggest fan of Stand by Me. I’m truly sorry and I have no problem with whatever punishments lie in wait for me in cinematic hell. I know that’s where I’m going as I’m one of the 7 people that like Revolver. A lot. But for some reason Stand By me has never been the film that brings tears to my eyes or wistful memories of that blissful summer that no one had, yet all remember. Yet when it comes to coming of age films, give me something like Kings of Summer that apes Stand by Me, and you’ll find me lapping it up. I apologise. It’s a sickness.

Then again, The Kings of Summer wryly observes a childhood summer that I responded to a lot more, with more emphasis on that awkward alpha male fight that can happen within the family unit. The generation gap between father and son is well exploited within The Kings of Summer. Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) and his father Frank (an amusingly deadpan Nick Offerman) are at odds as there’s no buffer between them. His older sister (Alison Bree) has flown the coop, and with no mother, there’s just far too much testosterone within a small space.  It’s tough, it’s awkward and it’s so true what any young boys often feel towards their fathers; the strange belief that they have nothing in common with each other, yet consistently at odds because they’re so alike. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts deftly mines the humour of the situation perfectly. Having Joe reject the labour chores his father wants him to do, yet happily escaping to the woods to build a house with his friends to prove he’s a different man. Early on Joe considers his father as a lonely prick, but displays the same self-destructive tendencies as his father and fails to see the irony.

Bathed in golden Valencia-like photography, the film joyfully embraces quirky flights of fancy, with Wes Anderson like character interactions (disillusioning a bear to take it down!) and videogame blips appearing on the soundtrack. I guess one of the reasons I responded so much to Kings is because it holds such modern day mannerisms so well. The film happily melds a fresher look at nostalgia with more universal themes. Kings sometimes overdoes things with its use of slow motion feeling more like a needless tic than a useful enhancement towards the storytelling . The poetic licences also feels a tad strained. Ask yourself just how well you and a few friends could build a house at that age, with that amount of speed. Maybe there’s a slight hint of magic realism at play.

However Kings of the Summer does everything with an innocence and honesty not unlike the films that have come before it.  It doesn’t hit the heights of Draw Barrymore’s criminally under seen Whip It, nor is it as highly strung as Perks of a Wallflower. However it was hard for me not to finish Kings of Summer without a grin. Now out on home media after some terrible distribution issues on the cinema front. The Kings of Summers has a soul I would happily kill for as I try to get the cinematic gods to forgive me for my enjoyment of Guy Richie.