Hot Summer Nights (2018)

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Critic Consensus: Hot Summer Nights is easy on the eyes and clearly indebted to some great films, but its strengths -- including a charismatic young cast -- are often outweighed by its uninspired story.

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Daniel Middleton (Timothée Chalamet), a likable but socially awkward recent high-school graduate, is spending the summer before college visiting his aunt on Cape Cod. Neither a "townie" nor a wealthy "summer bird" dropping in for the season, Daniel struggles to find his place-until he meets Hunter Strawberry (Alex Roe), the local bad-boy who peddles marijuana to well-off vacationers when he isn't protecting his younger sister McKayla (Maika Monroe) from overzealous male suitors. Sensing an opportunity, Daniel persuades Hunter to go into business, dealing weed up and down the Cape together as the summer heat intensifies. Newly confident, Daniel falls for McKayla, keeping their relationship secret until it becomes explosive. Set in the summer of 1991 against the backdrop of a looming hurricane, Hot Summer Nights is the confident and assured debut feature from writer-director Elijah Bynum. Featuring a wry and charming performance by Chalamet, a stellar turn by Monroe (It Follows), and a breakout performance by Roe-who remarkably seems to be channeling James Dean-Hot Summer Nights is a torrid thriller about small-town misdeeds that erupt in passion and violence.

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Critic Reviews for Hot Summer Nights

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (17)

While Bynum captures the year of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and its transitional early-'90s fashions with melancholic vividness, his paper-thin story of minimal character development ultimately resolves to a shrug.

Aug 8, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Hot Summer Nights is both groan-inducingly contrived and vapid, its talented young cast wasted on an incoherent script-less a web of betrayal, greed, and adolescent desire than a few dangling threads.

Jul 28, 2018 | Rating: C | Full Review…

You've seen it all before. But you haven't seen, and should, "Hot Summer Nights."

Jul 27, 2018 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

There's plenty to look at, but nothing really works here.

Jul 27, 2018 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Observer
Top Critic

Hot Summer Nights stumbles, grasping for meaning and mood, relying heavily on one of the more insistent soundtracks in recent memory.

Jul 27, 2018 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Although every cinematic experiment and story beat doesn't always work, "Hot Summer Nights" is downright intoxicating, oozing with panache and sensuality from every pore.

Jul 26, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Hot Summer Nights

½

When a story focuses on a central character coming of age, I'm immediately hooked. With the addition of the backdrop of the film being set in the 90s, that only added to my excitement. Hot Summer Nights is one of A24's latest distributions and this studio has had quite the track record over the last few years. Personally, I believe this film will be one of their most polarizing releases of 2018, but I think it's a fantastic little indie gem. If you enjoy stories of an innocent youngster who gets swept up in something they think they can handle but really is about to ruin their life, then this film is absolutely something I would recommend to you. Here's why I highly recommend Hot Summer Nights, but also why that recommendation may come with an asterisk for some viewers. Following Daniel (Timothée Chalamet) as he spends his scorching hot summer in Cape Cod, he finds himself caught up in drug dealing, an unlikely relationship, and no way out of either. Both of those things find a relation to each other and spiral into an overall film that feels like a fun 90s flick, meshed with the harsh realities of underground drug deals. The premise of this film is what truly hooked me and although the storytelling itself is quite conventional, the execution kind of blew me away. From the performances to the surprises, Hot Summer Nights is a film that doesn't let up, even with its slow pacing. Timothée Chalamet continues to prove himself as an actor and this role is nothing short of superb. Even if this film isn't for you, I have a feeling you'd still praise him in this role. His performance, along with his chemistry with both Maika Monroe (who is also as fantastic as she always is) and Alex Roe is simply electric. From the subtleties he brings to this character, to the raw and unnerving outbursts in certain sequences, Chalamet creates one of the most memorable characters of the year, in my opinion. If you're able to enjoy a film by the core performance alone, then I think you'll love this film as I did. Outside of this character, however, is where I fear some viewers may become uninterested or bored. There are a lot of moments of characters just hanging out and spilling their life stories, but it works in the context of the film. There are some viewers who will absolutely find these conversations boring, but I was blown away by the performances, so that wasn't an issue for me. There are slow movies that I find boring, but when dialogue can drive it and make for an exciting, slow, yet dramatic experience, that's my kind of movie. So here's where I caution viewers. If you aren't willing to be swept up in a film that's filled with dialogue and not much excitement (for the majority at least), then I would look elsewhere, but personally, I think you'd be missing out. In the end, Hot Summer Nights is easily one of my favourite movies so far in 2018. The dramatic tension between characters completely sucked me in. Chalamet leaps off the screen and the very solid writing and direction by first-time feature filmmaker Elijah Bynum is something worth noting as well. I will definitely be on the lookout for his next outing. Hot Summer Nights is a true story for the most part, but you can tell that things have probably been tweaked to make for a better film. This film will probably go unnoticed by most, and that's a shame. I loved my experience with this movie and I can't wait to revisit it.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

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