Hot Summer Nights
dir-scr Elijah Bynum
prd Dan Friedkin, Ryan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas
with Timothee Chalamet, Maika Monroe, Alex Roe, Emory Cohen, Thomas Jane, Maia Mitchell, William Fichtner, Jeanine Serralles, Rebecca Koon, Reece Ennis, Jack Kesy, Shane Epstein Petrullo
release US 27.Jul.18
17/US 1h47
Hot Summer Nights
Let's make a deal: Chalamet and Roe

monroe cohen jane
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Hot Summer Nights A title card says this is "a (mostly) true story", but it actually feels like memories filtered through every coming-of-age movie ever made. Writer-director Elijah Bynum piles on the style, with fast-paced cutaways and a snappy pace. But by never finding a coherent tone (is it a teen comedy or a crime drama?), the film feels like a hip homage to cinema rather than a real story populated by real people.

After his father dies, shy-skinny 18-year-old Daniel (Chalamet) spends the summer before university with Aunt Barb (Koon) in Cape Cod. It's 1991, and everyone is smoking weed, so it isn't long before Daniel is offered some by notorious dealer Hunter (Roe), the hottest guy in town. Further problems come when notorious bad girl McKayla (Monroe) comes on to him, and it turns out that she's Hunter's estranged sister. She'd hate that Daniel is working with Hunter, and Hunter would hate that he's seeing McKayla. But lying to both of them probably isn't a great idea.

There's no shortage of stylised touches here, to the point where the movie feels almost (but not quite) like a colourful pastiche. The voiceover narration by an unseen 13-year-old aims for an almost novelistic style of storytelling with lots of unnecessary background detail about everyone and everything. There are constant clips of random people adding commentary straight to camera. And the cornball symbolism must be deliberate, such as when fireworks fill the sky at the moment of Daniel's first kiss.

Chalamet brings this awkward teen to life, making his naivete believable. He easily balances Daniel's light and dark sides in a way the script never quite manages. Everyone around him has this same natural presence, adding little twists to undercut the cliches. Monroe and Roe each find terrific chemistry with Chalamet, although their characters never quite surpass the stereotypes. And small side roles are enjoyably cartoonish, including Jane as a condescending cop, Cohen as a wannabe drug kingpin and Fichtner as his casually cool boss.

Bynum finds moments of enjoyable humour, some nicely clumsy encounters and a general sense of cool youthfulness. But there's never any doubt where this is going, especially since a metaphor-heavy prolog gives the climax away. The film's second half feels like it crawls at a snail's pace, only watchable because of Chalamet's offhanded charisma. But the real problem is that mixing a drug-dealing story with raucous house parties and sexy nights at the drive-in leaves the film without a soul.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 21.Jul.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall