Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Review: Kaboom

Gregg Araki is a veteran filmmaker that specializes in stories about homosexual teenagers. Kaboom is a sort of homecoming for him, as a couple of his previous films have been scripted by others. With his new film, which he's both written and directed, Araki has clearly been able to do whatever the hell he wanted to. It's reflected in the film that its director is having a lot of fun, and it is a fun film, if one can handle it.

Smith (Thomas Dekker) is an 18-year-old university freshman. He is sexually undefined as well as horny as hell. He begins the film by admiring his dumb surfer-boy roommate Rex (Andy Fischer-Price) from afar. But he is soon forgotten as the story progresses, as Smith gets to nail almost everyone who happens to come his way, men and women.  He also starts to look into a mystery of a female student disappearing and soon finds out that there is a weird cult running around, that announces the end of the world.

Like a lot of independent films during the last decade or so, Kaboom could be described to belong to the mumblecore genre. The film's not so much about the plot as it's about the characters just talking. In this case, the talking is almost every time leading up to having sex. Araki is directing some sort of nostalgic rutty sex fantasy, that follows the plot logic of porn movies. The kind of never-ending stream of sex scenes (gay and straight) might offend in conservative America, but for Europeans, it is played too nice and too repetitive. At least for viewer's who've accustomed to Bruce La Bruce movies like me the occasional nipple slip and otherwise L-shaped sheets aren't that steamy. It becomes tiring after a while and the viewer is left with some questions on how teenage sex is portrayed in movies in general. American colleges and their parties are always shown to be like brothels. I always get the feeling the directors are overcompensating for something. There's rarely any of the real awkwardness, blushing and mistakes of real life teenage relationships, which makes me think the directors have wanted to forget them altogether. In the case of Kaboom, it's a pretty clear Araki's teenage sex fantasy through and through. Sex happens on a whim, it's always good, one gets to experiment different things, and one always gets to have sex with whoever one wants to. Fantasy.

As Kaboom has started as Araki's plaything, he will also end it like toys usually end. By breaking it. The cult plotline is an excuse for Araki to bring chase scenes and heavy exposition to the end. These parody your regular Hollywood mystery film's twist endings. Everything so far is explained to have happened for a reason, but when looking back at the whole neat little package, the motivation of the characters seems completely insane and out-of-place for the film's context.

Of course, the whole thing ends with the titular KABOOM which is supposed to be a big "fuck you" to the audience. I guess Araki also would like to demonstrate how he feels about following regular Hollywood plot developments and doing things by the book. But for a protest film, I feel Kaboom is more whimpering and muttering than a real bang. Araki has nothing to offer in exchange. The end scene is also too underlinedly "radical" for its own good, even though it did make me laugh. I found Kaboom to be fun to be watched once, but the viewer really gets nothing out of it. But judging by the sighs coming from other critics at the screening, the obscenities did work to offend some.


Director and screenwriter: Gregg Araki
Cinematographer:  Sandra Valde-Hansen
Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Juno Temple, Andy Fischer-Price

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