AIFF 2013: The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and written by Chris Galleta, tells the story of teenaged best friends Joe and Patrick who spontaneously decide to abandon their awkward, boring and parent-dominated lives to build their own “kingdom” in the local woods for the summer. The premise may be simple, but the film goes to unexpected emotional depths, and doesn’t skimp on the laughs, either.

The leader, Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) are joined by the strange and hilarious Biaggio (Moises Arias) as they construct a ramshackle house in the middle of nowhere, a kind of utopia where the pressures of reality don’t exist…or do they?

A search ensues for the “missing” boys, led by Joe’s father, played by the ever-stoic Nick Offerman of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” fame. The film juxtaposes the lives of the boys, frolicking, swimming and drinking against the mundane and suburban living Joe desperately seeks to leave behind. However, as others are slowly allowed to enter the boys’ sanctuary, Joe, Patrick and Biaggio’s friendship is put to the test.

The Kings of Summer is truly remarkable in the way the filmmakers manage to balance the antics of precocious 15-year-old boys, familial problems, as well as the beauty of nature and absurdity of life. This film could easily have gone south, but the perfect combination of chemistry, humor, and a true emotional core makes for a triumphant story.

Following Stephen Chbosky’s recently and critically acclaimed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, moviegoers will hopefully see another Teen Movie Renaissance on the horizon, one that puts honesty at the forefront rather than crudity.  Reminiscent of the candor found in John Hughes’ “Brat Pack” films of the 1980s, The Kings of Summer could stand the test of time, becoming one of the seminal teen movies of a generation.

Practice Makes Perfect, a short film directed by Vance Malone preceded The Kings of Summer. The short was the perfect “appetizer,” if you will, to the feature film, similarly illuminating the milestone of puberty: the first kiss.

Beautifully shot and sincerely acted, for 4 minutes the audience is allowed a glimpse of a young teenaged boy practicing kissing on his hand, a fish bowl, and a soccer ball. It all makes for a delightful build-up to his date at an old movie theatre, which is charmingly identical to downtown Ashland’s own Varsity Theater.

The Kings of Summer will enjoy a wider release on May 31.

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