Sundance 2011: KABOOM Review
[With Greg Araki's Kaboom now screening at Sundance we revisit Kurt's previous review from Sitges.]
Probably the best thing audiences will get out of Gregg Araki's latest joint, Kaboom, is some well thought out and thorough advice on cunnilingus from rising star Juno Temple. Well, that and its very pretty cast parading around in holier-than-thou-coolness. Otherwise, the flat, though colourful, look of the film, its refusal to take anything too serious, or spend too much effort on story or character, leave the film fitfully entertaining but rather stuck in the middle of the directors C.V. It is half-way between the stoner classic Smiley Face, and his more narcissistic-hubris laden debut The Doom Generation.
Smith (The Sarah Connor Chronicles and All About Evil's Thomas Dekker who looks a lot like Jared Leto while sporting some very sexy 9 O'Clock shadow) is a bit anxious about turning 19. He is plagued with recurring nightmares about exotic red-heads and lesbians and red-dumpsters while he fantasizes about sex with his roomate, a dumb-as-a-log surfer dude named Thor. Narcissism, or sexual angst is the cause? Either way, he has a childhood friend, Stella (Halley Bennet, The Hole) to process his anxieties with deadpan detachment over cafeteria lunches which Araki shoots as if they are the only people in the room. At a party, Stella hooks up with the dream-lesbian while Smith meets up with the dream-ginger who vomits on his shoes before wandering off into the night. She shows up again being chased by people with animal masks. Mysterious notes show up at his apartment proclaiming the end of the world and Smith as the 'Chosen one.' This is fitting, perhaps in a movie that casts James Duval (Araki regular, but also the Bunny in Donnie Darko) as a Messiah-Secret Agent. Little makes sense beyond the hermetically sealed world that Araki has built, which plays as a really low-rent Eyes Wide Shut, you know, for kids.. A metaphor for youthful narcissism and sexual pathways that follow multiple-overlapping connections like Facebook friends; bisexual and multiple partners of course considering the writer/director. It might be refreshing if the tone was not so detached and smugly self-congratulatory.
The so-called mystery is not so much compelling, as it is a filmmaking lark, amusing for its 90 minutes of run-time, and made bearable by all the pretty flesh, and casual sex. The rest is rather strained, and might work best an offbeat TV serial than it does here. It is too bad, as the young actors (and a curious but completely throw-away cameo from Kelly Lynch) are having a certain fun with the material. It has been interesting to follow twenty-something Juno Temple as she moves along in her career, it should only be a matter of time before she is landing something very high profile, beyond films that will not get much of a release beyond festivals - Mr. Nobody, Cracks, Dirty Girl and this film. Here she carries enough sexual confidence and energy to sustain several better films.
Kaboom seems to want to be pithy, hipster and sexually charged science fiction but in its quest to be too cool for school, it forgets to do its homework or put any real passion into the filmmaking. As a wannabe act of surrealism, it has no damn right to reference Un Chien Andalou. That's just feels dirty.