Monday, 2 December 2013

The Kings of Summer (2013) - ★★★½

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writer: Chris Galletta
Stars: Nick Robinson, Nick Offerman, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Erin Moriarty, Megan Mulally, Marc Evan Jackson

The Kings of Summer is a visually beautiful, entertaining film. It's basically like the movie Into the Wild, but for teenagers. It boasts an amazing soundtrack, exquisite cinematography, and an Oscar worthy performance by the hilarious Nick Offerman. I couldn't connect with the characters, because they were the kind of people I generally dislike. However, their complicated feelings and impulsive actions were both easy to relate to, and at times unbelievable. I enjoyed this movie because it made me feel some pretty strong emotions, and it didn't become preachy about in-depth teenage problems. It's just an interesting look at the lives of three boys, who are sick of their lives and want to escape. It's far from a perfect film, but there's enough substance there to call it a great movie.

Joe (Nick Robinson) and his best-friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), are tired of their frustrating and annoying parents. When Joe discovers a beautiful and free space out in the woods, he comes up with a hair-brained scheme to escape from his parents and live with Patrick. They both go along with the plan, along with their odd new acquaintance Biaggio (Moises Arias), and start building their new lives in the secluded forest.

It's entirely possible that three teenage boys could build a house all on their own, however, it's hard to believe that these particular boys could do that. But I can forgive that, because it's a fictional story that's there to entertain us! One thing that did bug me was that the movie tried too hard to be funny at the start. From the dialogue, to the overacting, everything is over the top. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it requires performances that MAKE it funny. The actors just couldn’t pull it off, leaving me unconvinced about their characters, relationships, and situations.

I like this film, but not because of our main characters. They’re immature, stupid, arrogant, annoying, bratty 15-year-olds.  I just couldn't find a way to connect to them. I think most teenagers can relate to their parent troubles, but that’s all I could relate to. The shenanigan’s they get up to, their selfishness, and the blatant disrespect they show towards others just made me glad they’re fictional characters, and not real people on this Earth. This is supposed to be a fun-loving, light-comedy for teens, I get that. These teens just kept getting on my nerves, which made their story not very enjoyable at first. Worst of all, as a love-triangle bloomed later on, I found them to be absolutely detestable people. Plus, the ease in which they adapted to living in the wild just really bugged me. I wonder how many unsuspecting, aggravated teens will be fooled into thinking it’s just that easy?

The performances of the two leads were fantastic, especially as their relationship began to fall apart. I’d go as far as to say that The Kings of Summer has one of the best displays of heart-ache and betrayal between best-friends. When Joe gets super hurt and depressed, the pain in his eyes and the lack of logic in his actions were executed perfectly. I’ve felt the same way as him before, and man does it hurt… so in a way, as annoying as his character is, this is a great film. You can see Joe's side, and Patrick’s side, but deep down I know who made the dickiest move. In short, they come across girl trouble. All I have to say is this: If a person would rather have a girlfriend and break their best-friend’s heart in the process, then that says a lot about who that character is. I didn't like either of these boys, but they elicited a furious response from me.

The Maggio character should have been funny, but he just wasn't. I don’t know whether it’s down to bad delivery, or ridiculous dialogue, maybe it’s both. All I know is that he kept taking me out of the moment, with each blatantly forced punch-line that is supposed to make me laugh.

Nick Offerman stole the show.
I found the father, played by Nick Offerman, hilarious with his wit and sarcasm. To me, he is the life and soul of the film. He was the one thing I looked forward to seeing throughout, because I knew I’d be getting real comedy whenever he was on screen. When he fought with a delivery guy over the size of the won-tons, I burst out in laughter. That was a damned funny scene, because it was delivered in such a natural way. It wouldn't surprise me if much of the dialogue was improvised by Offerman. There were also beautiful moments of vulnerability in his eyes, which made me consider him for a Supporting Actor nomination. He doesn't have a chance in hell of being nominated for an Oscar, but I think he’s given one of the best performances of the year.

When I heard ‘The Youth’ by MGMT play, my heart leapt out of my chest! That’s one of my favourite songs, and it suited the story so perfectly! Ahh, twas one of my favourite sequences I've ever seen on film. In fact, there were many beautiful moments in this film of scenery and nature, which were elevated by the power of easy-listening techno music. The camera and music tell us what we need to know, and create truly entertaining and wonderful moments. It’s a nice yin/yang to the fast-paced, quirky modern dialogue that was abundant during the early stages of the film. Also, the score that played at the end was phenomenal. It's modern, it's different, it suited the film, and it's entrancing. Composer Ryan Miller has made a fan out of me. 

So what did I think overall? Well I thought it was below-average at the start, but as is the case with many movies, the story takes its stride in the second and third acts. It’s a spectacularly made film, with an amazing soundtrack and gorgeous cinematography. The characters weren't fun to be around (save for the Dad), but in the grand scheme of things, I was invested in their story. It’s a really good film. It didn't capture my adoration, but it won me over in the end. 

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