Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): * * * -1/2 (up it a half-star if you're already an Araki fan)
Be still my heart (and certain other appendages)! KABOOM is about out on DVD, and a funnier, sexier, goofier, goosier good time I have not had since last year's delight, Women in Trouble. I wonder, in fact, if Kaboom's writer/director Gregg Araki sees, as do I, any similarities in the two films. Their styles are certainly different, and while Women's filmmaker Sebastian Gutierrez concentrates on the gals, the porn industry and some lesbian fun, Araki gives us gals and guys. Though he makes certain you know his main boy is at least accidentally ambi-sexual, this kid's fantasies always seem to go gay.
What unites the two films is the state they put the viewer in by the end of the experience: a kind of joyful, giddy, beaming pleasure. Watching them is like taking a vacation, not just from life but from most other movies. They're not guilty pleasures because -- stylish, smart, and very well-written, directed and acted -- they're guilt-free. Araki is also quite transgressive. I should think even a lot of gays find his work "difficult." You don't get feel-good movies about coming out, in which friends and family finally see the light and embrace the "Why, he's just like us!" protagonist. The triumph of the human spirit is - sadly but gladly - nowhere to be found.
What is to be found is a randy-dandy embrace of sexuality in whatever form pleasures you--from a mere (but hot) fantasy about roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) to a threesome with a fantasy who suddenly becomes a realty. The filmaker is happy to give sex lessons, too -- as when one of his heroines, London (the sublime Juno Temple) diagnoses to a "T" the performance problems of studly Rex (Andy Fischer-Price).
The plot, such as it is, is mostly about the getting laid -- in any and every manner possible -- of Araki's young hero Smith (Thomas Dekker, looking very much like a little boy with a beard - one of those ultra-soulful kiddies on the Keane paintings from the 50s and 60s come to life).
But before, during and after said sex, all sorts of odd happenings occur: Men in animal masks kidnap and kill; a young woman barfs on our hero's shoes; his mom (Kelly Lynch) can't keep one quick phone call going; and a "witch" (Roxanne Mesquida) seduces then stalks his best gal pal (Haley Bennett, who, along with Juno Temple, gives the film's standout performance). Oh, yes: and our hero's been having some weird apocalyptic nightmares....
While Araki's style grows ever more commercial (don't worry, his content is anything but), Kaboom seems like a cross between his first relatively good-looking movie Splendor and the charm and humor of Smiley Face. Full of inventive, fun visual effects, the film looks like a million bucks (but probably cost much less).
At the press screening I attended, laughter was near-constant thing -- but on an individual, rather than a group, basis: It never came from a large portion of the audience at the same time. Instead, it seemed as though, every few moments, something struck someone in the audience as hilarious, so there would be a sudden and very audible hoot or snort. That's the sneaky, Araki way: Even the laughs aren't mainstream. By the time you've been doing this kind of guffawing and chuckling throughout an entire movie, you may find yourself in a very good mood.
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