The Kings of Summer (Film Review)

The Kings of Summer (Film Review)

When you are a teenager, all you want to do is to grow up. To be an adult, to prove your worth to yourself, those closest to you, and to the world.

As a teenage boy, it is paramount that at some point, you are able to prove that you are a man, that you are able to stand on your own two feet and demonstrate to the world that you can take whatever it throws at you.

While growing tired of his bitter father, and abnormal family life, two friends decide that they are going to build a house in the woods, to escape the world that has been so disappointing for them to that point. They want to prove that they are men, that they can do the things in the world that they will soon be expected to do.

The Kings of Summer is very much a traditional coming-of-age story, and one that is fun and adventurous, as it should be. Our protagonists follow through with their wild dream, causing their families great turmoil over their disappearances. But they are out to prove that they can live on their own, without the need of their overbearing parents, or the regular trappings of city life. It is a simple desire, and the journey they undertake is interesting.

kings of summer(1)The film is beautifully shot, with great scenery throughout. I liked the script in that it never pushed things too far, and never veered into the unrealistic. They don’t build an incredible palace in the woods, they don’t fall into a Lord of the Flies type of battle for supremacy. They are just boys, enjoying their simple time away from the world. Sure, they have their issues, such as trying to hunt and feed themselves, and despite their desire to get away from it all, it is never truly possible. As with any, or most, teenage boys, girls are an issue, as are questions of popularity and the sens of needing to belong. All of these things are explored in The Kings of Summer, and it is enjoyable seeing it unfold.

We cheer for our protagonists, hoping that they will be able to make everything work, that they can prove their worth, that they can show themselves to be successful and important in their own minds. That they are albe to create something that they deem important, and that they don’t need the outside world that doesn’t really want them in the first place.

I think this film could be compared to a light version of Into the Wild, though not nearly as intense. It is meant to be light-hearted, and it is. And this was a strength of the story, in that we get the feeling that nothing truly bad could happen to our characters, and that they will somehow be able to work things out for themselves, and that in the end, they will be okay.

There is some really good acting throughout the film, from the major characters to the smaller ones. Standout performances come from Nick Offerman, as the bitter father, and Allison Brie, as the sister. Smaller roles, but integral ones to the development of the leads.

Overall, a very solid film here. Not going to change any lives, but it will show that there are types of characters out there who are willing to push the boundaries to ensure that they can change their own. Well worth a watch.

Smashed (Film Review)

Smashed (Film Review)

Ah, Netflix. I love you because of your random suggestions. Since I watched Drinking Buddies, I might also like…

Smashed.

A quick film about a young married couple (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul), who have issues with drinking. Like, they enjoy it too much. Both of them are alcoholics, and the film centers around Winstead wanting to get clean, Paul’s refusal, and the way in which alcohol, or the lack of it, drives them apart.

smashed_headerAt the beginning, Smashed seems like it will be a harrowing journey into the lives of alcoholics, in the way that so many substance abuse movies are. We will watch them have fun, then things will turn bad, then they will go through the torturous withdrawal on their way to redemption. I will give this movie credit, in that it isn’t as cookie-cutter perfect as it could have been.

The movie opens with Winstead waking up hungover, getting ready for work, drinking in her car, then throwing up in front of her grade 1 students. Seems like our abuse film is right on track. This leads to a side story, where Winstead says she is pregnant, causing her to be ill. While the story line initially seems kind of pointless, it does lead to a redeeming part later on, so there is definite purpose. Later on, she smokes crack with a stranger. A quick escalation, and we see that she could easily become a complete train wreck.

The best part of the movie is Winstead’s performance. She is confused, and angry, with the choices she has made, and she comes across as genuine throughout the film. She is able to create the performance of someone who is broken, and ready for a change. She drank because it made her feel good. And then it made her feel bad. So she stopped.

And this is the problem with the film. It all seemed too easy for Kate. She went to a couple of meetings, with the guidance of a fellow teacher (played awesomely by Nick Offerman- he has the most memorable, and most awkward, scene in the movie when he is in the car with Kate and admits he has a crush on her), found a great sponsor, and got clean. Sure, there is the inevitable relapse, but Smashed keeps us away from the physical pain of detox. There is no real indication that Kate as any issues with being around others that drink, which I would imagine, is one of the most difficult things for a recovering alcoholic to do. She carries on with her life, does better at her teaching job, before the drift with her husband occurs.

It is nice to see the opposite side of the coin, however, in that alcohol was the thing that kept this couple together. We are more used to seeing how the presence of booze will drive a couple apart. For the most part, it becomes the absence of alcohol that creates their marital issues, as it was something that they could bond over for so many years. For that, Smashed offers a slightly different perspective on the issue.

For the most part of the movie, Aaron Paul is underused. He is a good actor, but the majority of his performance is basically a spinoff of the early Jesse Pinkman on the first couple of seasons of Breaking Bad. He could have been more. He gets to show his acting chops as the movie progresses, but for the most part, I feel he could have done more.

In all, Smashed is just ok. It could have been dark, and gritty, but it only gave us glimpses into that side of alcoholism. This film is carried by the actors that are in it, and for them, it is worth viewing. As a movie that focuses on the pain and desperation of addiction, it does fall a little flat.