Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.
Year 1, Day 338
BEFORE: The first of many advanced screenings this week, The Kings of Summer is seeing a release after it’s premiere at this year’s Sundance. Nothing really caught my attention when I first heard of this film, and there were even a few screenings of this film I passed. But when I saw another screening open up, I decided I should finally watch the trailer because basing my judgements solely on posters isn’t a good idea. And the trailer was actually very good so now I’m excited to see the full thing.
AFTER: From when I left the theater and all along the T ride back, I had a smile plastered across my face. The Kings of Summer is a fantastic film: great comedy, great drama. All around from characters to story to the connection you form with the film, this is just packed to the brim with awesome.
The premise is, a couple of teenagers - Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) - all want to get away from their parents who annoy them to no end and build a house in the middle of the woods. Tagging along is Biaggio (Moises Arias), a peculiar kid who can be very creepy at times. It’s not something many people can relate to directly (most kids don’t run away from home, let alone build a house and spend a month alone in the woods), and yet, it’s strangely relatable. Everyone has been embarrassed or annoyed by their parents at some point, wanted to go on an adventure, and been heartbroken. The Kings of Summer just takes some of these ideas to the extreme.
Helping bring this story to life is a perfect cast of characters. The characters themselves are written truthfully. The teenagers feel and act like teenagers, the parents feel and act like parents. It doesn’t feel scripted beyond the basic foundation of the story. All the dialogue, physical movements, and attitudes are genuine. Big props, in addition to the writer Chris Galletta, also belong to the entire cast. Nick Robinson and Gabriel Basso have great chemistry together as the best of friends. Moises Arias really brings in the comic relief with his scarily good, strange and creepy tag along. Nick Offerman brings that same harsh and authoritative figure who won’t tolerate any nonsense that I’ve seen from the very little Parks and Recreation I’ve watched (where Offerman plays Ron Swanson). But he also has a sensitive side, and delivers one of the most insightful lines I’ve ever heard. Megan Mullally does a great job on the opposite side of the parenting spectrum, the mother who is overly protective and constantly embarrasses her son, unbeknownst to her.
These last two topics I’m going to group together and they are the cinematography/editing and the connections that are formed (ok, so that’s three topics). The cinematography really gave this film that sense of adventure and freedom. You see these kids go out into the woods but you also feel it as well. The generally wide angles and the really rich and vibrant colors of nature help you not just see things, but sense them. The editing also does something similar. Scattered throughout the film, there are many brief (couple frames each) cuts that are very dreamlike. A few times, the word experimental crossed my mind as a way to describe it. These shots, while related to the film and the story, often seem out of place. It’s not until the end when I began describing them as dreamlike that I saw their importance. They add to this “feel” of what is going on; the thoughts of these teenagers and where their minds are going. Which leads to the connections. Part of the reason I’m so enthusiastic about The Kings of Summer is that it personally touched me. Again, I never ran away, or wanted to run away, as a child, and while there were times I got frustrated at my parents, I loved them dearly as they loved me. But the important thing here is that I still felt I could relate to the teenagers, Joe especially, and what they were going through. It’s the idea of doing what you want and being with friends, moments of pure happiness followed by times of depression. The Kings of Summer is a coming of age story and tailored to teenage boys. But it is more inclusive than that, and whether boy or girl, child or adult, I think there is something here for everyone to grab on to.
Many parts of this film are hilarious; many are also dramatic. There are even moments of intense fear and high tension. The Kings of Summer really delivers across all spectrums of film. From story to characters, cinematography to editing, everything about this film is beautifully crafted and presented to the viewers. A lot of my excitement towards this film may just be because it was great for me personally. But at the same time it was also highly entertaining and if the rest of the audience is any indication, I wasn’t the only one who liked it. While this is only in limited release, I highly recommend seeing this film if you can. This is, by far, the best new release I’ve seen this year.
The Kings of Summer has been in limited release since May 31, 2013. There seems to be no plans for a wide release.
RATING: 5 out of 5