The Kings Of Summer: Is this one of the best films of 2013?
Over recent years it seems as though we’ve been inundated with coming of age movies; be it vampires, werewolves, wizards and witches or high-school comedies that feel more in keeping with the gross-out tones of Animal House than a John Hughes classic. So it’s with some relief that Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first feature outing is a genuinely charming, hilarious and heartfelt addition to the genre that echoes the classic Stand By Me.
In amongst the bonding of three runaway adolescent teens and their dreams of building a house in the woods in an exercise to become men who rule their own land, the movie’s focus is on the trio’s grand designing leader, Joe. Played superbly by relative newcomer, Nick Robinson, Joe is tired of living with his miserable widowed father and, after stumbling across a secluded open in the nearby forest, decides to escape the confides of his ridiculing parent. Inviting his friend Patrick (Super 8’s Gabriel Basso), who believes his over-loving, dull parents are giving him hives, and the strange machete wielding, snake whispering, Biaggio, along for the journey that will see them go from boys to men… minus the R&B.
"One of the films of the year."
Where the film really exceeds its tonal predecessors is in the short score led interludes where we are treated to the beautiful landscapes, surrounding trees, streams and wildlife, all sun drenched and inviting, that the boys have come to call home over the season. One particular segment sees Joe and Patrick perform a tribal-like piece of percussion by bashing logs against a giant pipe whilst Biaggio performs a sort of ritualistic dance atop it. With cuts of the boys enjoying their forest (one of which shows them relieving themselves into a river), the sequence acts as a marking of one’s territory.
An initiation into manhood, you may say. These cuts are successful in showing us how much the boys have mature in such a short period of time, wispy signs of stubble et al. But not so much that they’ve out grown the school boy falling outs caused by the affections of a femme fatale (Erin Moriarty’s Kelly), which again, shows director Vogt-Roberts’ understanding of teenage.
But let’s not forget that, cuts of beautiful scenery and the third act’s drift into Joe’s heartache for Kelly’s affections aside, The Kings of Summer is a comedy. And a very funny one too. Bringing in the bulk of the laughs is Biaggio and his one-liners that become ever stranger as the film progresses. From stating he can talk to snakes to believing his sexuality is determined by Cystic Fibrosis, Biaggio is comedy gold in every one of his scenes.
The supporting cast also get their fair share of laughs throughout the movie with Joe’s Dad, played by Parks & Recreation’s Nick Offerman, giving us that same dry deadpan hilarity we’ve come to love from the show. One particular exchange between Offerman’s character and a fast food delivery driver will have you in stitches.
There are so many aspects of The Kings of Summer to appreciate. From the performances of its young protagonists, the terrific supporting cast, including Offerman alongside fellow Parks & Recreation alumni Megan Mullally and Community’s Alison Brie, to Vogt-Roberts’ direction, Chris Galletta’s superb script and Ross Riege’s stunning cinematography, this is a touching and hilarious coming age that’s been made by people who truly understand what it is to be teens on the brink of becoming adults and the, sometimes humorous, tribulations that come with it.
The Kings of Summer doesn’t live in the shadow of Stand By Me; it sits very comfortably and deservedly alongside it as one of the young generation’s greats.