Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Somewhere of Gregg Araki's Kaboom

(Gregg Araki,
US, 2010, 35-
mm, 86 mins.)

"I don't really be-
lieve in standardized
sexual pigeonholes."
--Smith (Thomas Dekker)

From the opening sequence alone, it's clear that Gregg Araki is back on familiar turf. This is good news for fans of The Doom Generation, Totally Fucked Up, and Nowhere, his teen apocalypse trilogy, but bad news for those expecting another Mysterious Skin. Time will tell if he'll ever make
a movie that gritty again (he followed it up with the loopy Smiley Face).

He introduces his latest lead, Smith (The Sarah Connor Chronicles' Thomas
Dekker, likably low-key), a "perpetually horny" film student at an unnam-
ed So-Cal college, as he's talking about his dreams. In one blue-tinged ep-
isode, he makes love with his roommate, when in reality Thor (Chris Zyl-
ka, believably stupid), a surfer who sleeps in the raw, prefers women.
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Like many Araki protagonists, Smith swings both ways. When he isn't dreaming about the "excruciatingly hot" Thor, he's kvetching about him
to his best friend, Stella (Haley Bennett, whose blasé act gets old fast).
The combination of three lookers--there will be others--also reinforces
Araki's abiding interest in triangles of lust. While Stella majors in art,
Thor aims to suck his own dick (hey, it pays to have ambition!).

The apocalypse enters the picture via the Messiah (Araki vet James
Duval), Smith's RA, who claims that the end of the world is nigh (and
dresses like Adam Brody's dealer in Smiley Face). Then Smith starts
to run into people from his dreams, like spacey-eyed Madeleine (Nicole LaLiberte), who appears to meet her maker at the hands of men in animal masks, and Lorelei (Fat Girl's Roxane Mesquida), a lesbian witch who has the hots for Stella (and recalls The Doom Generation's Rose McGowan).

Smith has a fling of his own with London (director Julien Temple's cute, uninhibited, fuzzy-haired daughter, Juno, who previously appeared in A-
), a British chick with a thing for gay boys. He makes plans with
a few gents, too, including a bashful fellow who tracks him down through Explosions in the Sky's Facebook page (a nice touch on Araki's part).

If Mysterious Skin took place in the real
Heim's life in-
spired the nov-
el which fueled
Araki's adapta-
inhabits a more
stylized realm.
may experi-
ence real feelings, but they don't talk like real people. Instead the slang-intensive dialogue comes on like an R-rated version of Buffy or The Gilmore Girls.

In the end, it plays like a paranormal teen romance with all the boobs,
blood, and blue language that those books--and the attendant movies
and television shows--tend to leave out. I could do without a few of the
ick-making scenes (Smith has a habit of walking into puking girls and
onto dog shit), but this is definitely one of Araki's more accomplished
efforts. If you enjoyed the teen-apocalypse films, do not pass go.

If not, you may want to take a pass, though it's hard not to admire the
way he brings all the disparate story strands together at the end with
a takedown of Scientology, doomsday cults, homophobes, and pseudo-
Christian sci-fi twaddle about Chosen Ones. I particularly enjoyed the
New Order/Joy Division allusions--after all, post-punk has always been
as much a part of Araki World as the lovingly shot bisexual three-way.

Kaboom plays the Northwest
Film Forum from 2/25 - 3/3 at
7 and 9pm. The NWFF is locat-
ed at 1515 12th Ave. between
Pike and Pine on Capitol Hill.
For more information, please click here. Images from IFC.
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