– At Your Discretion – R, Drama
I don’t like sprinkles on my ice cream. To me sprinkles are flavorless, leaving nothing for the taste buds to sulk on. They merely exist to “compliment” the soft serve with a bit of crunch; and that is how I would summarize the new Timothée Chalamet film, except without a crunch.
Daniel, or Danny (Timothée Chalamet), is sent to spend a summer with his aunt in Cape Cod following the death of his father. While there, he learns the trick and trade of selling marijuana from an odd, brotherly figure named Hunter Strawberry (Alex Roe). Hunter’s violent tendencies may cause harm to Danny’s character, especially as Danny falls in love with a girl. With a summary like that and a cast that looks promising, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint what went wrong.
Hot Summer Nights feels reminiscent of other adaptations that are loosely based off of real life, a la: American Made and The Wolf of Wall Street. Unfortunately, first time writer-director Elijah Bynum doesn’t quite capture the excitement or the tension that was evoked from the two previously mentioned films. I truly believe the main factor preventing Hot Summer Nights from being a teen staple is pacing. While both American Made and The Wolf of Wall Street’s story progressed quickly, each had years of plot to cover; Hot Summer Nights only had a story spanning three months. Because of the pacing issues, the character development feels fictitious and simply bland.
If it wasn’t for the main trio of actors, the movie wouldn’t be worth watching in it’s entirety. While the characters are underdeveloped, the actors have a certain, tangible electricity about them that the audience can latch onto. Chalamet and Roe have solid chemistry together, but I couldn’t help but feel that the true focus is on Maika Monroe’s character, McKayla. Then again, McKayla seems to be the common connection between Hunter and Danny. Without her, there would be no source of conflict for the story, leading to an unfortunate bore. Audiences have seen this exact story time and time again; the movie relies on tropes, both for characters and the story, rather than pioneering a moderately original work.
That’s not to say Hot Summer Nights doesn’t succeed in any department. Can you feel the summer heat? Mostly. If you’re a fan of the 80s and 90s craze that’s occurring in today’s cinema, you’ll find the atmosphere inviting; the color pallet glistens with bright pinks and yellows. These vibrant colors add several layers to the visual groundwork, providing your eye with a sense of location. After much anticipation for this movie, I can say that I was disappointed. I’m still very hopeful that Chalamet has a bright future, but, to my surprise, I must keep my eye on Alex Roe and Maika Monroe for their future projects. You can catch it at the theatre on July 27th, but I recommend renting it digitally.