A few years ago I used to watch anything that had come out of Sundance, exclusively because it had come out of Sundance. After my awakening to all things quirky and the realization that indie films existed, Sundance was like a treasure chest full of insanely interesting documentaries and weird teenagers, in equal parts. While I still adore the documentaries, I guess that the “indie film about an outsider” category got a bit boring for me, not to mention the cinematography copycats that seem to reign in that world.
The Kings Of Summer is brilliant precisely because it took the best out of the genre and mixed it with something new. It isn’t trying really hard to be quirky; the characters are average teenagers, if a bit spoiled. They have actual conversations. There are shots of fields in the golden hour, but they are tied into the story, not just there to be pretty and make the viewer go “oooh”.
Joe and Patrick are in that wonderful age in which one fights with one’s parents for no sensible reason; add in the fact that their parents are actually impossible, and voilà! They decide to move out to the woods and build a house, where they will provide for themselves and become men. Obviously, putting a house together and learning to hunt and live as savages is not easy for middle class boys. What makes The Kings Of Summer amazing is how the narration is true to life, without peaks of drama and insane plot twists for the sake of the film. Even the most absurd events seem realistic.
The situations in which the protagonists put themselves are hilarious, but the nuance with which their relationship with each other, with their friends and their relatives is treated is just perfect. There is no need to overexplain and overanalyze: everything feels genuine, true to life, in particular the complicated ties between Joe and his father after his mother has passed away. While the entire cast is great, it is impossible not to have a particular love for Nick Offerman’s stubborn, wounded Frank; his performance as a dad who just can’t be conciliatory with his whiny teenage son is perfectly in balance between hilariousness and heartbreak.
Another remarkable performance — which I still can’t believe really happened — is Moises Arias playing Biaggio, a weird kid who joins Joe and Patrick in their adventure. Biaggio made me cry laughing, but also terrify me. I can’t imagine what dark, dark corner of writer Chris Galletta’s mind where such a creepy, bizarre character has come from.
I hate the sentence “coming of age story” with ferocious intensity and I find it particularly wrong in relation to The Kings Of Summer; Joe and Patrick still have a whole lot of growing up to do. What their experience in the woods brings out is the fact that they are in fact children, and even they realise that. This film tells the story of a great summer adventure and it is so entertaining and moving only heartless people will fail to appreciate it.
file under: Nick Offerman is a guarantee of quality.
final grade: 5/5
cryfest factor: 3/5 fairly likely.