Summer ’03
dir-scr Becca Gleason
prd Alexandre Dauman, Eyal Rimmon
with Joey King, Jack Kilmer, Andrea Savage, Paul Scheer, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Stephen Ruffin, Erin Darke, Logan Medina, June Squibb, Rick Andosca, Travis James, Bill Eudaly
release US 28.Sep.18
18/US 1h35
Summer '03
Chip off the block: King and Savage

kilmer scheer squib
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Summer '03 While there are plenty of dark edges to this coming-of-age story, it's fairly bright and breezy, making mountains out of molehills just like the teens at the centre of the story. But writer-director Becca Gleason's meandering tone and thoughtless lead characters make the film hard to engage with as it tries to provoke nervous laughter with jaggedly bitter humour.

On her deathbed, cantankerous Dotty (Squibb) tells 16-year-old granddaughter Jamie (King) that she secretly baptised her so she wouldn't go to hell. And that's not all, Dotty gathers the family and gets rather a lot off her chest, including a bombshell that rocks Jamie's father Ned (Scheer). In search of some meaning, Jamie turns to her flirtatious friend March (Ruffin), then to Luke (Kilmer), a seminary student at a local Catholic church. She knows she shouldn't, but she falls for him anyway. And there aren't many days until his ordination.

Jamie's narration is eerily realistic for a self-absorbed teen, but she's so mercenary that she's essentially an anti-hero. And we can see where she gets it, as her mother (Savage) never listens to anyone either. At least Jamie's impulsiveness is endearing. So it's not difficult to imagine what boys see in her, even alongside her hot-girl best pal Emily (Wilson). So the way Luke unsettles Jamie is adeptly played. Meanwhile, Jamie's young cousin Dylan (Medina) is freaked out because Grandma told him he was gay and needed fixing.

King has plenty of spark as Jamie, bravely diving into even her most abrasive moments. This is definitely not about a young woman learning from her mistakes; she charges forward full-speed, happily dismissing those closest to her in order to pursue her desires. Cleverly, every reaction her mother has seems like a personal assault, and the audience feels each emotional blow. So when Jamie turns on her friends, it's genuinely shocking. The surrounding cast is solid. And in the most potentially thankless role, Savage finds some surprising layers.

Along the way, the film hints at a more traditional teen rom-com plot structure, then shakes things up by making the central character so realistic and, by extension, so unsympathetic. But the film is packed with knowing observations and moments of authentic emotion that make it watchable and sometimes entertaining. The main question is what Gleason is saying here, apart from noting that everyone's life is a bit of a mess, really. And in the end, perhaps openly acknowledging that fact is what makes us grow up.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 17.Sep.18

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