Sunday, January 30, 2011

[REVIEW] - Kaboom

While he often finds himself compared to director’s like David Lynch, there are truly very few filmmakers quite like Gregg Araki.

Best known for his 2004 film Mysterious Skin, the filmmaker is back to his relatively dark and darkly comedic world after a brief departure into lighter fare with 2007’s Smiley Face, this time, with a tale of sex, corruption, more sex, and the occult.

Oh, and some more sex.

His latest film, Kaboom, has just hit theaters, and follows the story of an 18-year-old college freshman who, prior to his 19th birthday, stumbles upon a conspiracy in a Southern California seaside town. Written and helmed by Araki, the film has found comparisons to narratives like Twin Peaks, which, along with a top tier cast of up and coming thespians, definitely peaked my interest.

And for once, my high expectations were not completely shattered, as this may very well be Araki’s best film since his stunning masterpiece, Mysterious Skin. It’s an absolute mind-bending winner of a film.

The film’s true star is not quite Araki’s direction, but it’s the skill he has behind the pen. Like an interesting mix between a show like Skins and film like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the film lacks the off putting nature of angst that makes a show like Skins nearly unbearable for those who lack prescription drug problems, and while it may lack the creativity that makes a film like Fire Walk With Me the classic that I truly believe it to be, it’s the film’s sense of humor that makes this an absolute must see.

The film’s narrative itself isn’t all that new. A series of murders have been taking place in a seemingly innocuous town, and our lead, along with his right hand girl and his love interest, go on the trail to hunt down just what exactly is going on. However, the film is richly written, in both its darkly comedic dialogue as well as its low-key sense of science fiction, which makes this otherwise cliché narrative, truly out of this world. There is a sense of in your face, almost punk rock audacity that while causing for a few stale beats, particularly near the end when the exposition begins to truly set in, ultimately makes this film far more charming than your run of the mill indie film. Truly a punk rock science fiction thriller, the film is in your face, uncompromising, and an absolute blast.

However, all would be for naught if it weren’t for this film’s cast, which may feature three of my favorite performances of the past 12 months.

Thomas Dekker stars here as our ambisexual lead, Smith, in a revelatory performance. While this performance oozes emo angst that would make a Hot Topic patron blush in self referential disdain, the performance is also full of comedic moments, all of which are delivered with this wonderful sense of brutal bluntness that really adds this level of depth to an already deep acting picture. Not a world shattering performance, but he’s charming as all hell, and for a film like this, that really adds a lot.

However, it’s the ladies that have this writer fawning over this film.

Joining Dekker are Haley Bennett and Juno Temple as Smith’s best friend Stella, and his new “love” interest London respectively, and both give absolutely amazing performances. Temple is the perfect free spirit here, with a sense of confidence that even leaves the viewer willing to walk up to a stranger and make out, and the banter between Bennett and Dekker may be some of my favorite interchanges I’ve seen in a very long time. Bennett is a perfect opposite to our lead, and really shines in her subplot with a witch, Lorelei.

Araki’s visual sensibilities really allow the action on screen to shine as well.

The director's frame is definitely a loving one, llingering on our leads as if they were that person we eye from across the bar, and sly uses of editing, particularly near the end, really give hope that one day, Araki will reach outside of his comfort zone, which he is directly settled in with Kaboom. Kaboom is vintage Araki in both his blunt use of the camera, and his audacious use of narrative and narrative structure, that even though the things on screen seem absolutely bonkers, there is this lingering feeling that leaves you wondering if a conspiracy like this could actually exist. It’s a really compelling, if not all that inventive piece of direction, that is ultimately more audacious than it is creative. And I loved every minute of it.

A sci-fi fever dream of an ode to screwball comedies, Kaboom is more than just your run of the mill, brooding indie film. It is an audacious look at sex, sexual experimentation, and what it’s like to be a teen, searching for something to cling on to. Some may dismiss this film as nothing more than Araki being Araki, but Kaboom is much more than that. It’s fun, funny, full of an audacious heart, and one of the most compelling sci-fi films I’ve seen in a very long time, despite a final 20 minutes that seems to be more exposition than inventive explanation. Simply put, this is 2011’s first true must see film.

Kaboom – 8.5/10

Go see something good!

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