Monday, 6 January 2014

The Kings of Summer Review

"Why live when you can rule?"

Movies like Into the Wild , 127 Hours and The Motorcycle Diaries are based on living your life with full freedom. When you are caged in a house or walking down in somebody's shoes, an aggression will come over you and a force will drive you to explore a place to find peace. And who hasn't wanted to do that? Who hasn't wanted to leave everything behind? No obligations, nothing to worry about. Who doesn't want to live like that? And for me, this is why The Kings of Summer works, it's relatable.

It's a cliche, I know, but The Kings of Summer does owe a great deal to Stand By Me, Rob Reiner's sensitive adaptation of Stephen King's beautiful, coming of age novella. In common with the latter, The Kings of Summer has a small group of boys on their own journey of discovery through love, friendship and family angst. But there is so much more to it, and that isn't to criticize Stand By Me in any way. But if Reiner's film holds a place in your heart, take the plunge.

Joe Troy (Nick Robinson) is closing in on adolescence and struggling with life under the glare of his cold, overbearing father, Frank (Nick Offerman), who himself is battling his own problems and struggles to show affection. Joe finds a secluded clearing in the woods and persuades his best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), to join him in his escape from their constrictive world, and there, joined by oddball Biaggio (Moises Arias) they build a 'house' and declare themselves masters of their own destinies.

And that's it.

The Kings of Summer isn't a film of epic discoveries, great mystery and explosions; the discoveries are about themselves, the mystery is life itself and the explosions are the fireworks of their own emotions. But you know what? The Kings of Summer is real, it is natural, it's beautiful and it's a near perfect film.

Dealing with the triumphs and failures of teen love, total independence and friendship, The Kings of Summer delivers a point with a mixture of wit and drama that not only conveys its ideas well to the audience, but also brings impact to the narrative so those audiences can take away something from the film.

The central trinity is a flawless blend of characteristics to which we can all identify. It could easily be just one body inhabited by three souls who meld or clash according to the situation. Like Stand By Me, the three principals give the impression of being life-long friends rather than actors cast for our entertainment. Theirs is a relationship that echoes with those of our own childhoods (and hopefully adult life, if we're fortunate) and it works so beautifully upon the screen because it feels natural and effortless. Often critics talk of 'chemistry' in terms of romantic leads but in The Kings of Summer it is a flawless harmony, even when they are sparring with one another.

The Kings of Summer goes on for a briskly-paced and memorable ninety-four minutes, showing the highs and lows of the teenage life, along with the extreme anxiety that plagues kids of that age, as well. Numerous films come out each year focusing on the American teenager and few hit the nail on the head or even succeed as competent entertainment. This film articulates the hunger for self-reliance and independence in adolescent souls as well as their need for thrill better and more maturely than I have seen in the past. 

In a summer packed with robots smashing into each other and comic book heroes coming off the page and onto the screen, The Kings of Summer truly is the king of 2013's summer movies. It's refreshing viewing and I absolutely loved it.