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The Kings of Summer (2013)

June 17, 2013
the-kings-of-summerFrom a sociological stand point, the 1940s and 50s have long been an interest of mine. The reason being, that it was the first contemporary period to establish and acknowledge the teenager as a separate entity in society. Prior to then, adolescents were considered children by society until they turned 18. By then they were expected to take on adult responsibilities, get married, have children, and start their own lives. Cinema represented this boxed notion as most teenage roles in films featured youth playing up their child-likeness or their preparation for adulthood. These roles never explored the changing bodies and mentality of teenagers, until the 1950s Post War American adolescents between 13-17 were first identified as “teenagers,” a group of youth in limbo of childhood and adulthood with differing goals and desires.

Parents began to fear “juvenile delinquency” and teens formed gangs and involved in risqué behavior in the search to feel accepted and find their identity.Since then, most films focusing on the teenage years are usually part of the coming-of-age genre, in which stories revolve around a teen or group of teens learning to mature into their own self-identities while struggling through fluctuating horomones and a need for independence. The 1980s gave way to a multitude of films focusing on teenagers and their struggles, then the 1990s following suit on a more superficial route. The earlier part of the 2000s have focused more on niche problems for any given group of teenagers. The Kings of Summer, is impressive mostly because it’s a sort of return to form of 80s teen film’s that captures teenage angst, first love, and defiance through simplistic and timeless means.

Joe (Nick Robinson) is an average 15-year-old Freshmen in the summer before his sophomore year. He’s not academically studious, far from popular, and constantly butting heads with his widowed father. His simple pleasures in life come from masturbating in the shower to images of his dream girl and friend, Kelly, hanging out with his childhood best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and wrecking havoc however he can; like ruining a family game night with his dad’s new love interest by calling the cops to accuse his father of theft. Fed up with his lack of independence and happiness at home, Joe decides to leave home, with the equally miserable Patrick, to build their own castle outdoors and live like men who make their own rules, and also forge for themselves. Joined by Biagio, a strange follower that finds passion in Joe’s ideas, the trio embarks on a summer filled with romance, heartbreaks, self-reliance and self-realization in a hilarious coming of age tale.

The Kings of Summer 2

The King’s of Summer is cinematically brilliant. It is one of the most visually stunning films to come out this year. Although director Jordon Vogt-Roberts’ filming techniques are nothing new per say, they are awe inspiring. Roberts has a knack for utilizing new age techniques that makes the film swell with fresh individuality. Slow motion is a frequent novelty throughout the film, in ways reminiscent of internet videos that dedicate themselves to showing cans of soda and fruit being sliced mid-air and also of people being punched in the face to focus on the exaggerated look of flesh being warped and skewed. These moments happen beautifully throughout The Kings of Summer and capture the pure bliss these boys experience when being left to their non-judgmental vices. Roberts proves his mastery of capturing light when contrasting scenes of harsh lens flares produced by ambient light as a result of filming in digital, versus light bokeh possessed during soft focus outdoors moments that are lit by naturally golden sunlight.

The King’s of Summer is the debut screenplay of screenwriter Chris Galletta. A former writer for “The Letterman Show,” Galletta’s script is rooted in a natural humor that prompts as many laughs as it does tender moments. The script’s phenomenal writing is complimented by its impressive cast featuring cameos from some of this decades most talented comedians like Hannibal Buress, Khamil Munjanji Mann and Mary Lynn Rajskub. Moreover, comedic character actors dominate the leading bill perfectly playing up their character’s quirks. Nick Offerman’s dry, dead pan delivery excellently explicates Joe’s bitterness at home, just as Meghan Mullahey and Mark Evan Jackson as Patrick’s helicopter parents, whom refuse to take his feelings and angst seriously, prompts empathy to why Patrick is driven to hives from just hearing them speak. Both Robinson and Basso are fantastic in their roles, making the two aggravated teenagers likable despite their at times deplorably spoiled antics. However, The Kings of Summer’s stand out is Moises Arias as Beiagio. An odd, creepy tag-a-long with qualities of Aspergers syndrome, Beiagio is easily the film’s funniest character that’s both endearing and a bit terrifying.

The Kings of Summer definitely has its share of hiccups along the way, like poor attention to detail during certain edits; for instance a scene in which a cigar holding Joe taunts Patrick over a game of monolopy. The cigar is unlit in close ups with Joe speaking, but in medium shots it’s lit and burned down. Also the whole time frame is a bit skewed and unbelievable. How a kid who could barely build a functioning birdhouse for class manages to build a two story, solid structure in a span of a few days just doesn’t make sense, I don’t care how many books on building you read. Yet, these are minor technicalities in the scheme of the film’s ultimate delivery and considering Roberts was editing the film weeks before they were to premiere it at Sundance due to a lack of funds to hire an editor to finish it, is forgivable. The Kings of Summer is a perfect blend of humor, drama, and romanticism. It’s a beautiful film for the summer that makes me want to leave behind my belongings and spend a summer in the woods watching the trees dance and listening to the whispers of a creek.
SEE IT. And pack a bag with a book on surviving in the wilderness.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2015 8:09 PM



  1. A Year of Films to See and Avoid (2013) | The Cinephiliac

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