We don’t have summer in the tropics, because it’s just sun all year run (excessively most of the time). But looking back to my early teen. Growing up in the 90s, i spent a lot of portion of my mid-year school break outdoors. Realizing now that living in sub-urban area does has it perks, i don’t think my sister had the same privilege of playing outdoors like i had. Running around the thinly populated bamboo shrub (not to dense portion to avoid snakes), going on adventures to the nearest stream, lurking around tombstones, and running around under constructions houses (we weren’t safety conscious, i guess). Those were some of the ways I spent my days the neighboring kids. I experienced a sense of wonder and fantasy, playing pretend and make believe, like only a child could experience. And The Kings of Summer definitely brought out that nostalgic feeling in me.
15 years old Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) is infuriated with his father frustrating passive aggressiveness and constant meddling to his adolescent life. His friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is facing a pair of doting parents that constantly coddling and simultaneously suffocating his personal freedom. While Biaggio (Moises Arias) is just some random, weird kid who join the boys journey to finding their emotional freedom in the depth of densely wooded landscape of Ohio. Building a life and a house for their own in their woods. An ultimate expression of defiance to their parents and living independently as responsible adult.
This debut feature film from Jordan Vogt-Roberts stuck somewhere in the middle of my scale. I was more compelled by the fact that this is a boys’ coming-of-age films, a subgenre i always enjoyedThe summer of this year alone had several coming of age stories including Mud, The Spectacular Now, and The Way Way Back. I have not seen the latter two yet (soon hopefully). While Mud is more successful in delivering a poignancy within their dramatic realm, Kings of Summer attempt to flirt with the concept, yet stumble at the delivery. Chris Galetta script had a potential, i found myself drawn to several key moments that was ruined by the need for the character to verbalize everything instead of letting the visual converse with the audience. Montages reminiscent of Malick (include slow motions and the tall grass fields) are not always effective but beautiful to look at nevertheless. I love the one where the boys are building their
forts house and creates music using pipe as their percussion, a heartening vignettes of the boys’ adolescence. Even just for one magical moment there, i believe that they rule their own world as kings.
The leading trio was a huge fun. All are relatively new comers despite their credits of TV works and smaller roles on films. Nick Robinson as the meek teenager who initiate the pact and hatching the plan of escaping their homes was sulky without no redeeming quality that stood out and came across as slightly unlikable. I was not empathic of him at first, but the scene where he learns what it really meant to be alone was quietly emotional and heartfelt (ignoring the fact about the bunny involved in that scene). Basso’s rebelling against his parents coddling was slightly exaggerated in my opinion, i think he’s the one that i just can not put my fingers on. Arias as the cock-balling Biaggio is a weird mix, both to the group and as a person. He appears out of no where, he display a strong camaraderie to his new best friends, sensitive yet an oddball. But his comedic one liner are almost good. Concocting fake kidnapping notes using names created in the same format as Denzel Washington (black man’s name + cities) or confuse being gay with symptoms of cystic fibrosis. Some jokes work well, some aren’t, but Biaggio is a welcome addition to the mix and easily become one of the most interesting character. Nick Offerman as Nick Robinson dad has a very short screentime yet manage to be one of the most memorable character in the film, as he manage to exudes a lot of emotion within the limitation.
There’s a lot of almost in the film, it’s almost poignant, almost funny, almost heartwarming, etc. Just like the mishmash quality of the house in their forest, the film is made out of a jumble of comedy and drama that probably does not work too well with each other but held up okay anyway. The boys journey through the rite of passage to adulthood was mixes of pain and gain. It is enjoyable to watch and any flaws and mistakes along the way are easy to forgive and overlooked.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER (2013)
GENRE Coming of Age, Drama, Comedy
DIRECTOR Jordan Vogt-Roberts | PRODUCER Tyler Davidson, B. Ted Deiker, John Hodges, Erin Hollenback, Allan Marks, Michael Razewski, Richard Rothfeld | WRITER Chris Galletta | MUSIC Ryan Miller | CINEMATOGRAPHER Ross Riege | EDITOR Terel Gibson | STUDIO Big Beach Films, Low Spark Films | DISTRIBUTOR CBS Films | COUNTRY United States | RATING R for language and some teen drinking | RUNNING TIME 94 minute | RELEASE January 19, 2013 (Sundance)
STARRING Nick Robinson, Moisés Arias, Gabriel Basso, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson, Erin Moriarty