Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Coming-of-age low key indie film-ness
Desperate to escape the apparent suffocation of their parents, teenage friends Joe (Robinson) and Patrick (Basso) decide to take up the ultimate act of independence by leaving their parents and building their own house deep in the woods. There, along with their oddball friend Biaggio (Arias) they live independently and off the land like men in charge of their own destinies.
Through treading through extremely familiar territory and narrative, first time director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and debut screenwriter Chris Galletta have in my view crafted an engaging little film. We all remember being an adolescent desperate for our independence, and using this theme The Kings of Summer will resonate with audiences of all ages in my view. The montages, quirky soundtrack and great use of beautiful locations are perhaps a little cheesy, but generally avoid being over schmaltzy and shoved down the audience’s throat a little too much.
At the heart of the narrative the three protagonists are excellently portrayed by great performances, aided by some exceptionally sharp and subtle humoured dialogue, making them extremely likeable and familiar. The real stand out being Moises Arias as the eccentric and odd Biaggio; it would have been easy to overdo the wackiness and make him an irritating caricature, but these debutant film makers have in my view shown the restraint of experienced hands to avoid that.
Nick Offerman (very much ‘a him from that film’ actor) provides both heart and subtle humour to the role of Joe’s widower dad. He is a character that is as flawed as all of us, but we know his heart is in the right place and this is enhanced by Offerman’s understated performance, as well as his great delivery of razor sharp comic dialogue.
As the narrative develops and a girl, Kelly (Erin Moriarty) comes into the equation it is pretty obvious where everything is going, but it is all predominantly handled well and the film’s third act provides us with an emotionally satisfying conclusion. I must confess that I found the character of Kelly and her effects on the narrative a little too contrived and clichéd. Perhaps a few re writes may have smoothed over the edges of this a little, but this is otherwise a solid coming-of-age tale from first time film makers.
Simple in premise and themes, but effective and charming in execution; The Kings of Summer is a film that though a little rough around the edges and sometimes flirting way to closely with contrivance, has real heart and humour that engages from start to finish.