Sunday, 3 April 2011

LLGFF 2011: Kaboom review

Hot roommate Thor in Kaboom

Having been screened at several festivals since its premiere in Cannes last May (and including a screening in London already at the London Film Festival last october), Gregg Araki latest film, Kaboom, opened the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival on Thursday, with the director attending. The film follows bisexual film student Smith and his best friend Hayley, as they encounter a whole gallery of increasingly bizarre characters and situations, take a lot of drugs, have a lot of sex... and bump into a doomsday cult!

Kaboom is a bit of a return to the director's earlier roots, after a foray into serious drama (Mysterious skin), and broad comedy (Smiley face). While I have been a big fan of his earlier films, especially his teen trilogy (Totally fucked up, The doom generation and Nowhere, you got to love those very emo, teen angst titles!), I have to admit I was not all that convinced by his recent films.

The doom generation (1995)

Mysterious skin, which I saw at the London Film Festival along with an adoring crowd and Joseph Gordon-Levitt before he was famous, left me rather cold. I just could not get in the stories like so many others did. As for Smiley face, this was a rare misfire in his career, a wholly unfunny stoner "comedy" that committed the cardinal sin of wasting Anna Faris' talents (and that woman managed to make the Scary movies franchise funny!).

Anna Faris in Smiley face (2007)

So the director is treading some familiar grounds for his latest film. In fact, when reading the synopsis, I was actually worried it was too similar to Nowhere, and would not bring anything new. I should not have worried. While the themes themselves are nothing new, the film looks very different, and more accomplished than Nowhere.


Visually, the whole thing resembles a Roy Lichenstein painting, all in wide angle and pop art, flashy colours. The dialogue is brilliant as usual, Gregg Araki having lost none of his knack to create some hilarious and sharp one liners. And he has yet again put together a wonderful cast. Thomas Dekker (Nightmare on Elm st, From within) has a lot of fun with a character that is miles away from his usual parts. Juno Temple adds some spark and bite to her part, and special mention to French actress Roxane Mesquida whose very intense turn as a psycho/stalker (and more but I won't spoil it!) raised the biggest laughs for me. The biggest achievement is that there might be a cast of young, pretty teens, yet they are never annoying.

Thomas Dekker in Kaboom

If there is anything that really sets this film apart, it's the sense of fun, in the broad sense of the term. It is lighter in tone than Nowhere, which featured a suicide and a rape scene that jarred with the rest of the film. It just seems so refreshing to see a film which celebrates the joys of youth, and especially sex, for the uncomplicated fun it should be, without seeming to try too hard to shock for the sake of it, or being too cool for its audience.

I do not really know where Greg Arakki will go from there, but with Kaboom he does what he does best, nothing more but nothing less, and there is nothing wrong with that!

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