Sunday, June 5, 2011

Love: Kaboom

Oddly enough, Kaboom is a film in the same vein as Daydream Nation.  It's a shiny new piece of teen dream trash that feels like a composite of a dozen other films and genres.  Where Daydream Nation felt too familiar, though, Kaboom is a maniacally fun pop hallucination unconcerned with real drama and chock full of raging hormones.  Kaboom is an apocalyptic sex romp in which Smith (Thomas Dekker), a college freshman, embarks on a magical, mystical journey with cults, murders, witches, conspiracy theories, and a full pornucopia of hook-ups.  This is Gregg Araki doing what Gregg Araki does best: Gregg Araki.  That is: candy colored, postmodern, self-aware, horny, trippy pop fluff and stuff.  There was a moment there (we call it Mysterious Skin) in which Araki filled in his skimpy plots and concentrated on serious drama.  It was good.  It was disturbingly good.  But the time has come to put that aside. Kaboom is a return to college cult shock schlock like The Doom Generation.  It is, however, significantly better than The Doom Generation, and in possession of quite a bit more screwed up self-satisfaction.  Kaboom is juvenile, completely silly, fairly vapid, mildly disturbing, oversexed, and just the kind of film that feels tailor-made to divide critics and repel most audiences.  That said: after a bumpy opening, I wound up really enjoying it.  The film possesses a surrealism more in keeping with David Lynch than Daydream Nation, while maintaining visuals that run in the John Waters arena.  Though it's littered with influences, Araki (clearly pop-literate) never seems to try too hard to run with any established genre, idea, or aesthetic.  Kaboom is something new, something surprising, and something wholly liquid.  It exists for itself and in itself, the story as fluid as the sexuality of its protagonist.  

Sure, you can slam it.  There's quite a bit to attack if  you're not in the mood.  The writing, for example, is half-baked, but it's there.  Smith, his best friend Stella (Haley Bennett), and his fuck buddy London (Juno Temple), communicate in that apathetic, cooler-than-thou, narcissistic manner that feels oddly true to them, while it may drive the majority of viewers up the wall.  The world they move in is one filled with supernatural oddities and reality bent outside the norm.  It's a place inhabited by the fiction I wrote in college, and a place where sorority girls in sweatpants sit in workshop and say "i don't understand what's supposed to be happening here."  In that way, I suppose, Kaboom is like a piece of experimental science-fiction that's been filmed and has lost something.  There are ways in which you have to be in that culturally open-minded college moment, or remember that moment, to go along with Kaboom.  The world is ending in a literal way in this film, but it's really no different than the way the world, that is, the universe of which you are are center, is always on the verge of ending when you're 18, stressed, in a new place, angsty and hormonal as hell.  

Araki is Araki, and he's not for everybody.  Kaboom, though, feels more accessible than his past efforts, more lived in and less abrasive.  It's ticky-tacky fun.  Like, I don't know, some x-rated gag gift you pick up at Spencer's Gifts.  Nothing to get worked up about.  I say all this though I suspect most folks I know would hate this film.  Why?  Well, because as you watch it you may wonder if the scenarios were conceived by a room full of adolescent kids or if it's a scabby band-aid peeled off of the UK version of Skins.  You may also wonder why the acting occasionally feels as though it's being done by a blend of porn actors and CW starlets.  I wouldn't be surprised, really, if you asked yourself "who the hell is this movie made for?" and decided it was for deviants, stoners, and idiots.  Meh.  My advice: don't take it too seriously.  Ultimately, Kaboom is a twisted teen movie.  It's oddly refreshing, but in that sugary cocktail way where the alcohol is too well hidden and the next thing you know you're bent over a toilet.  I have a high tolerance for sugary cocktails.  If you're more of a fine wine person, steer clear.  That's it.  I'm done with the similes and metaphors.

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