Hot Summer Nights (2017)
R | 1h 47min | Drama | 27 July 2018 (USA)
Synopsis: Set in Cape Cod over one scorching summer, this fun and stylized thriller follows Daniel (Timothée Chalamet), a teenager who gets in over his head dealing drugs with the neighborhood rebel while pursuing his new partner’s enigmatic sister.
Review: 1991 still felt like the 1980’s which might be why the new coming of age drama HOT SUMMER NIGHTS wants to walk alongside those generational flicks. Basically it tries to be cool and for the most part succeeds. Where it fails is its inability to decide what sort of film it wants to be. Funny, dark, sexy, nerdy, stylized, bland.. it is all over the road and never picks a solid lane.
The main character Daniel (Timothée Chalamet) you like from the beginning. His lanky, uncomfortable, shyness makes him relatable. He is stereotypical without being boring. The rest of the cast too are very off the rack. This is not a slight to the performances or dialogue but should let you know that you have seen many other actors modeled the same way. Plus they are recognizable from other decades. Though set in the early 90’s this film could have been anywhere anytime USA. You have the greaser guy always on the run from the law, the blonde bombshell leading young men to immoral thoughts, the preppies and the townies waging war in a sleepy summer town; it all sounds very familiar.
The lane I most enjoyed them driving in was the actual coming of age boy wants girl position. They use voiceover narratives (think a very adult Sandlot or Stand By Me) to describe the characters and their actions. You get to know the history of the town and its inhabitants from these funny, insightful narrations. I use the comparison to Sandlot because I felt more than once that the films creators wanted to capture that same innocence but dirty it up for an R rated audience. Daniel’s love interest McKayla (Maika Monroe) is no Wendy Peffercorn nor is she described with the same adjectives. Watching Daniel when she is around is the humorous part of the journey.
Daniel teams up with McKayla’s brother Hunter (Alex Roe) to help increase Hunter’s weed selling business. This introduces some shady characters and more than one moment of violence. The two are an unlikely duo but their friendship feels organic and the actors are comfortable fleshing it out. It is more than just a brains and brawn scenario. There are many facets to their characters and probably more metaphors than I cared to examine.
Overall it is an enjoyable movie – and maybe a better renter later. It borrows a lot but does come into its own in small ways. Most will like it in the moment but later forget it was there. I personally would have liked more innocence and less angst but others will probably gravitate to the latter. Thinking it was maybe a generation gap I asked my 18 year old daughter what she thought. She said she really liked it but “may not have liked it as much if Timothee wasn’t in it”. Fans of young Chalamet may feel the same way.
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS is rated R for drug content and language throughout, sexual references, and some strong violence. It is very adult in theme and content despite the moments of humor. If you know that going in you may be able to catch the groove a little quicker. I give it 3 out of 5 daisy dukes. If anything it made me ready for fall.