Friday, September 2, 2016

Summer of 8: Movie Review

A slow and reflective end of summer.

At least Summer of 8 gets the simple things right. It’s the last day of summer before a group of friends go off to college – eight of them. Four boys and four girls. I particularly hate movies that can’t count the number of main characters, so this is a pleasant surprise even if it shouldn’t be a surprise. It also, for the most part, gets that feeling of anxiety right. That feeling of excitement, fear, restlessness and uncertainty before their lives change. 2016

Directed by: Ryan Schwartz

Screenplay by: Ryan Schwartz

Starring: Carter Jenkins, Michael Grant, Matt Shively, Nick Marini, Shelly Henning

Jesse (Carter Jenkins) opens the film by writing a letter to his father, and literally asking the questions “Who will I become?” “What does it all mean?” And it’s hard not to stifle a groan fearing that the rest of the movie will be annoyingly pseudo-philosophical like this. It’s not entirely although it does come a little too close for comfort. Some movie characters just should not be seriously debating the metaphysical realities of life – and this includes (but certainly not limited to) eighteen-year-old boys that woke up with the sunrise to drink beer all day, and eighteen-year-old girls who wear bikinis all day trying to make sure that the boys are looking at them and they are in control.

The characters are all universal representations. Jesse is the most philosophical about his future, his best friend Bobby doesn’t understand why he’s looking forward to it since high school was perfect, Aiden realizes he has exactly one day left to tell the girl of his dreams how he really feels, and Oscar cares only about the girls in bikinis. On the female side of things, Lily is Jesse’s girlfriend and is trying to decide their future, Emily is the high school over-achiever who is now questioning what it was all for, Serena is relatively calm about the looming transition, and Jen cares only about wearing a bikini and making sure the boys notice.

In an attempt to represent everyone, these characters don’t really represent anyone. There are just too many specifics that are missing that are needed to make them real people. Which colleges are they going to? How far away are they going? How did they make their choice? And how are none of them going to the same school? Other than the distance between two colleges mentioned at the very end, I don’t think a single character mentioned anything specific that made them who they are.

These characters do, however, grow on you. That’s the beauty of an ensemble film where you spend the entire time with the exact same characters. Even if they’re not entirely real, it’s hard not to feel what they’re feeling, and caring what they care about. I was cheering for Aiden to get the girl, I wanted Bobby to understand that it’s not the end but also the beginning. It’s very simple feelings, but at least the film gets that part right.

There’s also beauty in the self-containment of the film. The entire movie takes place in a day (and night) from sunrise to sunrise, on the beach, with just eight characters having a conversation, and romance. It’s photographed nicely, and it’s easy to see what they’re feeling in the moment.

Did I mention girls wear bikinis? Yeah, that’s the selling point. The film is better than that, but it’s also slow, meandering and not entirely universal.

Similar Titles:

Before We Go (2014) - A simple conversation becomes fun, funny and romantic with two great characters.

About Alex (2014) - About an ensemble that gives a new generation a film to call their own.

Brightest Star (2013) - A meandering romantic drama about losing love and finding yourself.

Very Good Girls (2013) - Very dull girls make for a dull movie.