Kids (1996) Review

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Written by Harmony Korine, which you may or may not know from the criminally underrated Spring Breakers, and directed by Larry Clark, Kids is a confronting film about urban youth culture in the United States at the height of an AIDS epidemic. Many are likely to view this film as immoral (indeed, that’s what the general critical reception seems to have been at the time of release) due to it rather explicit depiction of of sexuality and drug use amongst teenagers and children.

But let’s get away from moral concerns, at least for the moment.

Kids does not seem to have any sort of traditional narrative structure, however the plot is loosely about Telly’s (Leo Fitzpatrick) desire to deflower virgins and him and friend Casper go about their day skating, hanging out with other low life waster types, doing drugs and going to parties. Meanwhile, a morose and bleary eyed Jennie (Chloe Sevigny) tries to come to terms with finding out that she is HIV positive.

The film is unarguably fixated on sex, considering the way almost all male and female characters talk about that and almost nothing else, except weed. Huxley once said that an intellectual is someone who has found something more interesting than sex, so intellectuals these kids definitely are not. Certain sections of the film capitalise on it’s exploration of this topic in clever ways. One sequence has Telly and friends discussing sex and revealing their attitudes towards it and intercutting between Jennie and friends also discussing sex. Each group’s attitudes are often directly contradictory and this is one sequence that is quite well executed and manages to feel like something insightful.

The performances in the film are hit and miss, with it being very obvious that this is the first feature film of most of these actors. The narration done by Leo Fitzpatrick, which is used sparingly and to essentially bookend the film, is poorly delivered. Ewan McGregor he is not.

I also found that, while the characters are portrayed in a way that comes across as believable, I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likeable. In fact, most of the male characters, especially Telly and Casper in there actions, motivations and mannerisms come off, at least to me as predatory to women and that cunty grin of Telly’s is something I wanted to smack right off. Even Francis Begbie, Sick Boy and Mark Renton in Trainspotting manage to have some redeeming qualities. The closest thing to a likeable character is Jennie, although I felt, despite sympathising with her, that she lacked depth. This seems to be because of a relative lack of screen time between her and the antics of Telly and co. as well as the lack of any sort of narrative structure. The pacing at times can also seem quite slow even with a 90 or so minute run time.

What I think gives the film much of it’s impact is it’s staunch committment to realism. The camera work is often handheld and the general feel is almost like that of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, which makes it feel more raw, more real, which works with the non traditional narrative structure. It is not always shot like a documentary however and traditional cinematic camera work is still utilised, but it is seamless. The narrative, style and pacing of the film is also constructed in such a way that can be seen as promoting safe sex also does not intend to cast moral judgements on the characters, which is a smart move. Moral judgements on the characters here are fully intended to come from the audience and I thought most of the characters were scummy wigger degenerates.

Still, despite these issues I have just described, I would still recommend Kids. It is an interesting low budget independent film that is for the most part pretty well crafted and intelligent.  If you’re a parent, it’ll definitely be a film that keeps you up at night

7/10

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