Movie: Kings of Summer
My Rating: 3 stars
I usually don’t like this kind of tender, coming-of-age drama. They’re usually too earnest and sweet. But, I liked this one. I think it had just enough acerbity and darkness in the story that I didn’t find it repellant. Because, this movie isn’t the standard “teenage boys learning to be men” story line. It’s not really a self-esteem drama. It’s more about how teenagers become practically allergic to their parents around the age of fourteen or fifteen. Well, I guess it’s not a one-way phenomenon. Neither parents, nor teens can really stand each other during this awkward stage. Parents find kids too sullen and reflexively contrarian. And, teens can’t stand the way parents hover and try to control by making arbitrary rules. Both parties are trying to come to terms with their changing relationship, and it’s never easy sailing.
This sentiment really rang true for me based on my own years as a hellion. Not that I was any worse than any other kid. It’s a pretty universal experience. And, I think that’s why this movie is so compelling. Everyone’s been there—if not as a parent, then as a hormone-addled, teen demon. The boys in this story are feeling just as oppressed as we all did, but they have the guts to do something about it. Rather than let their parents manipulate their self-esteem to keep them under their thumbs, these boys decide to take a break from their guardians for the summer. They gather enough food, supplies, and building materials, and move off to the woods to build their own summer hideaway. Of course, this is a wildly irresponsible thing to do—disappearing without warning. But, for the purposes of this story, it feels really right. I think everyone has fantasized about fleeing a tyrant. Plus, this film does a really good job of portraying teen psychology. Anxiety is the controlling emotion. Social interactions are a matter of life and death. Crushes are all-consuming.
I recommend this movie. There’s a lot of truth in the writing. And, the conflicts are a lot muddier than we usually see in scripts. Typical movies have clear heroes and villains—conflicts are black and white. But, this movie recognizes how in real life, people can be both right and wrong at the same time. And, I appreciated that honesty. Plus, there is a lot of really fun casting. Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, Marc Evan Jackson, Kumail Nanjiani, Thomas Middleditch, Mary Lynn Rajskub. It’s a great group. And, there are tons of great cameos too. This is a movie I wouldn’t necessarily have found if left to my own devices. The synopsis sounds a little too treacly for my usual tastes. But, I found this to be a pleasant surprise.