>> The coming-of-age story is something we are all familiar with. I’m sure everyone remembers high school english classes focusing on the question of “where do the ducks in Central Park go in the winter?”. While it’s not a literary masterpiece, Elijah Bynum’s feature debut Hot Summer Nights is about Daniel (Timotheé Chalamet) and his coming of age during a summer in Cape Cod. The film takes place during 1991, it follows Daniel as he befriends a drug dealing bad boy, Hunter, and his sister, Mikayla, whose beauty and attitude has the all the boys worshiping her like some sort of deity. The film culminates with a large hurricane that rolls through New England, emphasizing the messiness of lost adolescence.
Hot Summer Nights is your stereotypical coming of age tale—compressing topics like the loss of a parent, drugs, sexuality, and forbidden love all in one film. The film is quick paced, at times it lulls but never long enough to lose complete interest. The characters in this film are extremely unrealistic, and just about everything in this film is pretty silly and idealistic. Yet, it all seems to oddly work. The film is very surface level, and that’s okay. This film has no intention of trying to establish a political agenda or social reformation in the minds of its audience. Allow this film to whisk you away into the euphoric pastel landscape of the early 1990’s, and bask in Chalamet’s intoxicating performance—which undoubtedly carries this film. At times the film feels overly goofy, and many of its jokes made me cringe, but this film isn’t meant to be taken so seriously. It’s nothing special—nothing different—and it’s not trying to be.
For a feature debut, there are some promising visuals. For example, a twenty-second long sequence of a sticky and moist exchange of a lollipop is one of the most immersive sequences I have seen in some time. While the film has some major visual wins, many of the conversational shots seem poorly composed and often times lack decent lighting. About 75% of this film is pretty lackluster when it comes to shot composition. The film has a great soundtrack, but at times can come across as a bit distracting when played in the middle of a scene. There are some entertaining and interesting interjections in the editing. The use of multimedia is intriguing and incredibly engaging, and it does a great job with aiding the overall plot and character development. Overall, Bynum shows visual promise, which will hopefully be amplified in his future works.
Hot Summer Nights is essentially a film we have all seen before. We know this story, we know its characters, and we can easily predict the outcome. Does this make it less enjoyable? For some, yes—many people will find this film to be the backwash of its predecessors. Does this film bring anything new to the table? Honestly, not at all. Call me crazy, but it’s films like these—the not quite awful, but still somewhat stimulatingly unique—that adorn the title of cult classic. Yet, only time will tell. 5/10 <<