|UK Release Date||21st August 2015|
|Reviewed||21st August 2015|
Debuts are tricky things to review. They’re no doubt far more tricky to create. But then, not everyone can pull off Following right out of the traps. Honestly, if you’ve not watched Christopher Nolan’s debut, you really should get around to it. So not everyone is Christopher Nolan, but that’s probably a good thing, especially if you’re a purveyor of digital cameras. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that sitting in judgement on a low-budget debut movie seems more, well, unfair, than on a moneyed fourth or fifth effort. I only have to look back over my first efforts at writing about movies to realise it ain’t ever going to come out proper first time out.
Which is my long-winded way of saying that A Dozen Summers is not exactly going to send critics scurrying for positive adjectives. It’s also my way of admitting that despite a catalogue of issues, I actually really enjoyed it.
To rewind slightly, the movie, essentially made by one man - Kenton Hall - tells the story of Masie and Daisy. The teenage twins chance upon an old school style narrator one day in their school yard and embark on a whistle-stop tour of real life movie making. Having berated the poor narrator for essentially creeping around a school, filming underage kids, they discover that by clicking their fingers, they can create any situation, as you would editing a movie. They use this in an attempt to deal with a variety of teenage issues such as a divorced dad they’re worried about, a glamorous mother they can’t connect with and some particularly amateurish bullies.
Which brings me to the laboured point I was making above. For a movie that has achieved even a limited theatrical release and comes resplendent with a very professional amount of press information, this movie has a substantial number of rough edges. The junior members of the cast act exactly like the non-professional actors they are, the editing is all over the place, the sound isn't quite right and when the soundtrack is attempting to cover a ‘serious’ scene it is cloyingly sentimental. In fact, when the movie is attempting to cover anything it feels is serious, it collapses under itself, the characters looking awkward and the music swelling and gradually coming to a halt as everyone shuffles off screen.
But. There is definitely a but. Despite all of the above, I actually found myself chuckling along with the more bonkers elements of the movie and on at least three occasions, laughing as hard as I have in any movie in the last few months. The thing is, when Hall is busily bulldozing the fourth wall, referencing and in some cases outright aping movie set pieces, he’s actually really good value. The girls manage to pull off a kind of casual teenage indifference to the oddity that regularly surrounds them and the running joke about their mother’s glamour modelling is both funny and insightful.
So we’re back to how to review a debut movie like A Dozen Summers without coming across as patronising or slating a low-budget movie for not being able to employ a stellar group of actors. So here’s my take for what it’s worth. I enjoyed the movie enough to forgive it the rough edges and the questionable sentimentality. I can see more than enough here to make me want Hall to crack on with his sophomore effort and for him to concentrate on the casually weird humour elements of his work. If you’re looking for a movie with any kind of polish or that has anything new or significant to say about those troublesome teenage years, you are absolutely in the wrong place here but if you’re willing to overlook these things and appreciate the more bonkers elements of this, then you may well find yourself laughing along with this. Hall very definitely has his heart int he right place and it's not that the movie ever makes you feel manipulated into a sentiment, it's more that it struggles to tread any kind of line between the poorly executed 'serious' bits and the genuinely funny comedy elements.
Equal parts exasperating as highly entertaining, it's honestly difficult to recommend this one as a cinema outing. But, if you're in the market for something that actually manages to make the chess scene from The Seventh Seal funny for the first time since Bill and Ted and has countless amusing side notes, then this one will hopefully be a decent way to spend 82 minutes. If nothing else, I really want to see All Aboard (you'll have to listen for it closely).