Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer is an odd, wonderful movie. Full of humor, heart and youthful, feral energy. It reminded me of childhood adventures with my cousin Carrie and the weekends we spent together, running the streets of our neighborhoods and exploring the woods behind her house. 

For his feature debut director Jordan Vogt-Roberts draws inspiration from the films he loved as a kid. In one interview I read he mentioned The Goonies and Stand By Me and I was certainly reminded of both of those movies when I watched The Kings of Summer. The friendship between protagonists Joe and Patrick, in particular, is similar to the close bond that Gordie and Chris share in Stand By Me (and Nick Robinson bears more than a passing resemblance to young Will Wheaton, which makes the connection even stronger). I was reminded of other titles as well. When Joe, Patrick and their eccentric third wheel Biaggio (the scene-stealing Moises Arias) run away to the woods, build a house of their own and swear an oath to live off the land and be the kings of their kingdom it's hard not to think of Max asserting his dominion over the terrible beasts in Where the Wild Things Are. And the volatile relationship between Joe and his father is not unlike the one between Max and his mother in the Maurice Sendak classic. There are traces of Peter Pan, too, but with one big difference: Barrie's Lost Boys run away from home so they'll never have to grow up. Joe, Patrick and Biaggio are anxious to leave adolescence behind and become men, so that they will not to have to answer to anyone.

Coming of age stories are not in short supply and the basic premise of The Kings of Summer is pretty standard fare. It's the approach to the material that sets it apart. This is a well crafted movie with a boisterous, off-kilter sense of humor. The natural world of the story is beautifully photographed; there are quiet, reverent moments that approach a near Terrence Malick-like elegance. More often than not, though, the dreamy imagery is paired with raucous musical cues and hilarious montages of the protagonists behaving like the energetic, unsupervised boys that they are (they do things like slice whole watermelons in half, mid-air, with swords and machetes). And while the boys are off playing at being men their parents are at home trying to figure out where they've gone. I should mention that Joe's father is played by Nick Offerman and Patrick's mother by Megan Mullally. And while there is genuine love, concern and conflict in the movie's parent-child relationships there's a lot of over-the-top hilarity, too. Patrick's parents are clueless to the point of absurdity but the movie allows them a sliver of depth and humanity at the end that saves them from outright parody. 

I really enjoyed The Kings of Summer because it constantly defied my expectations. It somehow managed to be both darker and zanier than I thought it would be. I admire the movie's ability to be over-the-top and wildly entertaining but also heartfelt and genuinely moving. I enjoyed every single minute of it. It's an impressive, assured first film for director Vogt-Roberts. I look forward to seeing where he'll go from here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sunflower Fields

sunflower fields sunflower fields sunflower fields sunflower fields sunflower fields Happening now at Forks of the River, WMA, South Knoxville.

Another Post Where I Talk About Nick Fallon

My affection for Nick Fallon on Days of Our Lives has already been addressed on this blog but, clearly, it's gonna become an ongoing topic. At least as long as the show keeps Blake Berris around. I think it'd be stupid of them to let him go but they've been stupid before so I'm never entirely able to shake my fear that Nick will do something incredibly inappropriate and illegal and wind up back in prison. At which point I will declare that Days is "Dead to Me! Again!" and proceed to fill that hour each weekday with another program (preferably one that doesn't leave me quaking with incredulity and rage on a semi-regular basis). 

Seriously, I love this character so much. It's really not an exaggeration to say that I couldn't love him more if he were a real boy and a member of my family. Unfortunately the things that attract me to the character are often the things that make his storylines difficult and frustrating to watch. Nick has always been an outsider. Even though he comes from the most prestigious family on the show he is usually treated as an afterthought. Unless he's behaving badly, of course. He was featured almost every day when he was wreaking havoc on his cousin Will's life but he hasn't been on anywhere near as much since that storyline wrapped. Now that his relationship with Gabi has ended he's been further sidelined. Whenever Nick is single he's almost entirely cut-off from the rest of the characters in his age group. The show has never made much of an effort to establish friendships between Nick and his peers.1 In his earliest days he was close with his cousin Abigail but they've only shared a handful of scenes since he returned last fall. And Hope cares about him but they almost never interact, either. The closest thing Nick has to a friend is his former "protector" and fellow inmate, Vargas, but he's featured even less than Nick. The show can't even be bothered to give the guy a first name. 2

The person who has always cared the most for Nick is his aunt Maggie. These two characters are terrific every time they interact. I just wish it happened more often. And it really should, considering they both live at the Kiriakis mansion. Then again that place is huge, so every time they show it and I don't see Nick I imagine that he's knocking around somewhere in the east wing, probably trying to find his way back to the front door and wishing he'd left himself a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. But yesterday was awesome, because Nick and Maggie had scenes. And Nick was wearing an adorable charcoal grey cardigan. And he had stubble. It was pretty much everything I could want from a Days of Our Lives scene. I like that Maggie threw some tough love Nick's way and told him he needed to see a therapist to deal with his prison rape. I like Maggie because she basically treats Nick the way I'd treat him: with great care and mild exasperation. Because he is, for the most part, his own worst enemy.

According to Blake Berris3 Nick is supposed to interact for the first time today with Jen Lilley's Theresa Donovan, who is a hilariously snarky ├╝ber bitch and drug addict. She's also cute as a bug's ear and mildly reminiscent of Nick's first love, Chelsea Brady. Theresa is a relatively new character but I have been enjoying the hell out of her. I like her sass and I love that she's mean to Jennifer. I predict that she and Nick will look adorable together but I also fear she will suss out his weakness for troublemaking ladies and use it to her advantage. And that's as it should be, I guess, because I don't think Nick's a character who learns from his own mistakes, and that hopeless quality is part of his appeal. But it's also frustrating, cause I occasionally want to see something go right for my guy. And it might be nice if he grew a little and became a bit more self-aware. And it will be pretty awful to see a woman take advantage of a former addict and rape victim who's hardly even begun to deal with the fact that he was raped. Just typing out that last sentence made me sad. Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe Nick and Theresa will meet, be instantly attracted to one another, and bond over the fact that they are both really damaged people. And if that doesn't happen I can at least take comfort in the fact that I'm meeting Blake Berris and Jen Lilley next month in Atlanta. So, if the story's not going my way I'll have the opportunity to rant to them directly.4 Which will probably make me look like a lunatic but might also make me feel better. At least for a few moments.

1 I realize the show regularly sidelines a lot of awesome characters but I only care that they do it to Nick. I am a Nick fan first, a Days fan second. I'd really rather he had his own soap opera. 2 Or a last name. I honestly have no idea if "Vargas" is the guy's given name or family name. I do know the actor who plays him is named Sean Douglas. Which is kind of hilarious. 3 Who clearly got the air date wrong. 4 I will so not do this. I will be too self-conscious and flustered to do something so ballsy. I'll be lucky if I can even form coherent sentences in the presence of Blake Berris.