© Salzgeber & Co. Medien GmbH

Beach Rats
U.S.A. 2017

Opening 25 Jan 2018

Directed by: Eliza Hittman
Writing credits: Eliza Hittman
Principal actors: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Neal Huff, Nicole Flyus

On the cusp of adulthood, Frankie (Dickinson’s performance is balanced) is finding it hard accepting responsibility, and sexuality. Now summertime, he holes up in his basement bedroom examining older men on Brooklyn Boys dating website. Otherwise, Frankie hangs out in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, prowling the boardwalk with machos for chicks to pick-up, or people to annoy, and bully. With dad in extremis, everyone tiptoes about –his sexually maturing sister, and consumed with worry mother (Hodge). Frankie smuggles the guys to his bedroom where they get f—ked up with drugs. Summer drags on. Watching fireworks with attractive, flirtatious Simone (Weinstein) Frankie seems to find direction. Until Frankie’s curiosity leads to unanticipated developments, yet more confusion.

Brooklyn native writer-director Eliza Hittman’s second film (It Felt Like Love, 2013) again focuses on teenagers and sexual responses she again presents unabashedly onscreen. Straightforward in all aspects, she coaxes candid performances from cast. Troubling, though, is the character Frankie being so unlikable. Sure, wanting to fit-in, dealing with defining one’s sexuality, and death are challenging, but his self-centeredness, disrespect and contempt for everyone other than his delinquent allies numbs any feelings of compassion. Other characters are shallowly developed, e.g. mom, sis, dad, friends and a nagging sense of incompleteness envelops the film.

Cinematographer Hélène Louvart using atmospheric 16 mm film captures Brooklyn location compositions. Scott Cummings and Joe Murphy’s unimaginative editing plods, and music is by Nicholas Leone. The film has its moments, perhaps more so for younger audiences. It screened at Filmfest Hamburg, Germany in 2017. Be advised Beach Rats has an R rating in USA for content, and some very graphic scenes. Better suited for art-house cinemas, why not wait for DVD/Blu-ray or VOD release that will undoubtedly be soon. (Marinell Haegelin)

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