Monday, November 11, 2013

The Kings of Summer



Although it relies slightly too much on musical montage, Jordan Vogt-Roberts' The Kings of Summer is a very winning, low-key tale of the moment when childhood passes away forever. In this case the "moment" is a summer when teenage friends Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) each reach their breaking point with life at home and decide to light out for the territory. In their case freedom means a shack constructed in the woods just far enough away from home that no one will think to look there. Joe can't take life with his widowed father (an excellent Nick Offerman), who doesn't know how to relate to anyone as a single parent. Patrick's parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) are sketched much more broadly but let's just say that their son is afraid of being stifled by boredom. There's a third traveler in the party, a strange kid named Biaggio (Moises Arias) who's in the movie mostly to move the plot along but who does provide some of the best laughs. Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio live well in their idyll for a time, swimming and playing and not admitting to each other that their food comes from a Boston Market on a nearby road. When trouble comes it comes believably in the form of Kelly (Erin Moriarty), a good-hearted girl drawn to the boys' rebellion who can't help but come between two lifelong friends. There's fun around the edges of the movie, from Arias and Mullally and from Mary Lynn Rajskub as a cop, but Vogt-Roberts and writer Chris Galletta are honest about the fact that there's no going back for Joe and Patrick. The Kings of Summer ends with a brief moment of connection followed by a simple, heartbreaking image of life moving on. Jordan Vogt-Roberts has made a very good film about growing up in America.

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