Hot Summer Nights (2018)
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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Critic Reviews for Hot Summer Nights
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.
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.
You've seen it all before. But you haven't seen, and should, "Hot Summer Nights."
There's plenty to look at, but nothing really works here.
Hot Summer Nights stumbles, grasping for meaning and mood, relying heavily on one of the more insistent soundtracks in recent memory.
Audience Reviews for Hot Summer Nights
The screenplay is thin and the it's clear first-time writer/director Elijah Bynum knows his kernel of an idea his debut film centers around runs out of steam too early which is why he tries to supplement the narrative with this air of myth. Bynum plays his story through the younger eyes of an omnipotent onlooker and therefore sees the main characters as these unattainably cool figures. This perspective works to a certain extent as it serves the embellished tone of this early nineties set period piece and lends the events this fable-like quality in which the viewers feel privileged to be privy to such events given these people are and forever will be cooler than the narrator or ourselves could ever hope to be. Timothï¿ 1/2 (C)e Chalamet and Alex Roe each turning in varying degrees of charismatic performances for, despite the script running out of gas sooner than need be-the characters are drawn well enough that this odd couple pairing each of whom find themselves in a forbidden romance of sorts remains intriguing enough to keep us glued to the magic of summer's past and leave us needing more; wanting to go back. Maika Monroe and Maia Mitchell also make strong showings as stock characters meant to be stock characters that strike out of such confines to become something else entirely. Monroeï¿ 1/2(TM)s McKayla, a deity among the local teenage boys, is more successful in this regard given she is the crux of the emotional state of both lead male characters whereas Mitchellï¿ 1/2(TM)s Amy, the daughter of a local fearmongering cop (Thomas Jane), is little more than a target for Roeï¿ 1/2(TM)s Hunter to make an objective. The relationships are properly affecting though and the film builds to a nice culmination of its disparate strands about halfway through before devolving into more of those stereotypes that it attempts to upend to varying degrees of success. Hot Summer Nights is an ode to days gone by, to the way drugs were run, and to friendships that couldnï¿ 1/2(TM)t survive the rise, but for all its energy and style there is little substance beyond the surface level intrigue of boy meets girl, boy sells drugs, bad shit happens. This affair is vastly improved by the fact Emory Cohen (Brooklyn) shows up in a few scenes. So, more Emory Cohen in everything please.
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.
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