t h e k i n g s o f s u m m e r
23rd August 2013
11th August 2013
The Kings of Summer is the debut film from Jordan Vogt-Roberts. No, me neither. But as debuts go, it’s a pretty confident one. Though you wouldn’t guess this from the synopsis. Cue IMDB: ‘Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.’ Nothing new under the sun there. Which is where the movie throws it’s first of many, some dubious, curveballs.
Joe and Patrick have the sort of parents that only appear in movies. Joe lives with his widowed dad who may be the most sarcastic person ever created. His humour is utterly brutal in his dealings with his son but there is nothing to suggest a totally unhappy relationship. Patrick’s parents are no less strange. Spectacularly cringeworthy is the only way to describe them. Check the trailer if you want to see what I mean. Joe falls out with his dad over some power-tool related infraction (not putting them away rather than anything more visceral) and decides he’s had enough so persuades the less outgoing Patrick to join him on an adventure into some nearby woods to build a house and live off the land as kings.
In fleeing a party late one night, Joe finds himself in a beautiful clearing in the forest, an ideal place for the house. As he fled, he somehow took Biaggio (a brilliantly bizarre turn from Moises Arias) along with him. Biaggio is either severely troubled, mentally ill or just a bit odd. It’s never entirely clear which. Whatever it is, you get the impression that the boys didn’t really hang around with him too much at school. Biaggio tags along when the real adventure begins so the three boys find themselves scrounging for a wide variety of parts to construct their house in the woods. Something they do suspiciously well considering their age and available parts. Meanwhile the parents eventually wonder where their kids have got to and report the disappearances to some particularly dense cops. Eventually girls are invited out to the forest and inconsiderate behaviour and jealously brings the whole enterprise crashing down. Women eh?
The Kings of Summer has its issues but nothing that came anywhere near stopping my thorough enjoyment of the movie. It’s part sketch show and part coming of age drama. Many of the undoubtedly hilarious situations and conversations the kids have seem to have been dropped in specifically for the gag, rather than growing out of the situation but in a way, this works better - making the gag stand out. I haven’t laughed so hard for a long while (I saw this before Colossal Velocity). Biaggio is a particularly inspired character (if you put aside any concerns that he may actually be ill), bringing an original level of surreal humour to the proceedings.
Vogt-Roberts has a nice eye when it comes to filming the dream-like forest and surrounding fields. The moment Joe first discovers the clearing is wonderful and the whole ethereal sheen of the movie adds to the feeling of seeing something new in a well worn plot.
Ultimately the boys learn what most boys do in this set-up - moving won’t solve your problems. That and actually killing things to eat is far more difficult than you imagined it would be. Filled with nicely weird characters, well played by the entire cast (special mention for the useless police officers - brilliantly played by Mary Lynn Rajkub and Thomas Middleditch), sharply written with just the right mix of astute observations and outright bizarre behaviour, The Kings of Summer is a wonderfully fresh look at a tale we’ve all watched many times before.
Check out the trailer here.