“The Kings of Summer” a Funny and Poignant Coming-of-Age
By Skip Sheffield
Have you ever watched a movie and thought, “This is my story. This could have been me.”
I’ll wager a lot of grownup boys and girls will feel that way about “The Kings of Summer.”
“Kings” was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I can see why. It is fresh yet timeless; funny yet poignant- and pretty much universal.
“Kings’ is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who is mostly known for TV work such as “Mash Up” and “Funny or Die.” The screenplay is by Chris Galletta, who has been a staff writer for David Letterman.
The story is a coming-of-age fable set in northeastern
Ohio, but it could be
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) has a crabby, unreasonable and sarcastic father Frank (Nick Offerman), who has not gotten over the death of his wife.
Patrick (Gabriel Basso) has a mother and father who are pushing him in directions he does not want to go.
Biaggio (Moises Arias) is a strange little guy who attaches himself to Joe and Patrick when they decide to make the bold move of running away and building a fort out in the woods to live by their wits, free of parental interference. It is summertime and the boys are all around 15. It is a precarious age between childhood and adulthood when hormones are raging and goals are uncertain.
Many kids build forts and create their own myths. The forts may just be in the back yard, but they are away to get away from the “oppression” of parents. When individuals grow up and become parents themselves they begin to understand why mom and dad were so “mean” and unreasonable.
But it is impossible for a 15-year-old to understand this when he or she is in the moment. That’s why ages 12-16 are the most dangerous in a child’s life. Emotions are felt immediately and more deeply than in a mature adult.
Often these emotions are stirred by the opposite sex. In this case it is a very pretty girl named Kelly (Erin Moriarty). It is not her fault that two guys fall for her and she has to choose one over the other.
If you are still plugged into the angst of adolescence the recollection of pain is inevitable. You win some, you lose some, and it is all part of gaining wisdom and maturity.
Director Vogt-Roberts brilliantly cast virtual unknowns to fill these volatile, fragile but plucky roles. Nick Robinson’s Joe is an everyman: a good guy, good-looking and loyal to his friends. Gabriel Basso is a lucky guy blessed with even better looks and natural athletic ability.
Moises Arias’ Biaggio is an unpredictable goofball who is equal parts hilarious and profound in an out-there kind of way.
Put all this together and you have an irresistible summer treat devoid of car crashes, explosions, wanton sex or aliens. If you made it through adolescence sadder but wiser and grateful, this is a film for you. I know it was for me.