With the exception of 2004’s Mysterious Skin there has always been a distinct lack of depth to Gregg Araki’s film output. What he simply does is put a cynical eye on modern youth, their horrible sexual encounters, drug habits, the shitty world they wake up to each day, and then just throws in little bits about pop culture and American life. Sometimes he provides these stories in a cutting edge and interesting way and other times he produces the dullest, most self-indulgent waffle you are likely to see. This latest offering kind of falls somewhere in the middle of his best and worst films, but does succeed in giving a big middle finger to critics who maybe thought that there was more to Araki’s work.
Eighteen year old art student Smith (Thomas Dekker, TV’s Breaking Bad), is a slacker who spends most of his days hanging around with cynical best friend Steller (Haley Bennett), taking drugs and attempting to get with attractive, but dumb roommate Thor (Chris Zylka). His simple world is turned upside down, when he starts having recurring dreams about two women, who then appear to him in the real world, leading him to question what is real and not, as well as if there might be some grand conspiracy. Around this time Smith starts a thing with London (Juno Temple) who as it turns knows a lot about what is really going on.
For roughly half of its eighty six minutes Kaboom is entertaining, and works on the level of a potty mouth post-Bret Eastern Ellis satire, with sharp Twin Peaks like plot turns meeting comfortable murder mystery television. There is also an inventive, surreal colour palette all be it one which becomes very draining quickly. The main problem with all this is that the central idea of whether Smith is just seeing hallucinogens or whether there is more grows tired very quickly. And once you find out that the answer really is not anything to write home about, you may well wish you had stayed home and got high on sugar watching repeats of 90210.
The performances are all sharp and I did find there was sweetness to the Smith/Steller relationship which is one aspect which I would have liked to have seen expanded.
There is something gutsy about being this gross and painting such a bleak picture of students, still it does feel a little behind the times. For all its balls, gestures and ideas the one thing Kaboom sorely lacks is a plot. It has a set up, it has jokes, it has a style all of its own, but it lacks the ability to go from A to Z in a coherent fashion, while nailing all the main points and engaging you in the central characters (even if you don’t like them). For all the fun along the way, the film ends up looking like a collection of pieces from different films/Television Shows/Novels.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: GREGG ARAKI
CAST: THOMAS DEKKER, HALEY BENNETT, JUNO TEMPLE, CHRIS ZYLKA, KELLY LYNCH
RUNTIME: 83 MINS