'Kaboom': Youth culture, tinged with creepiness

Posted: March 18, 2011

'To clear my head, I went to a nude beach," says Smith (Thomas Dekker), a cinema studies major struggling with his sexual urges - gay? ambisexual? - and offering a noirish voice-over in Gregg Araki's crisp, goofy Kaboom. Of course, clearing his head is the last thing this diversion accomplishes, and before long, Smith is tumbling into bizarre scenarios involving a headless body and creepy dudes in animal masks.

Luckily, there's his best friend, art student Stella (Haley Bennett), who brings Smith back to reality with pithy observations like "college is just intermission between high school and the rest of your life."

Stella, who speaks in total deadpan, is a lesbian, and she soon falls swooningly for Lorelei (Roxanne Mesquida), who seems the ideal lover until she starts making these obsessive, stalker-esque Fatal Attraction moves. Suddenly, Stella isn't deadpanning anymore.

Araki has been making movies for more than 20 years now, and his ideas haven't evolved all that much. Rocking with energy (and usually with a rocking soundtrack), his pop meditations on the vicissitudes and vagaries of sexual identity are full of handsome women and men with hot bods and arch deliveries. He's explored all manner of genre - road movies (The Living End), black comedies (The Doom Generation), soaps (Nowhere) - but disaffected youth, clocking in at every point of the Kinsey Scale, are always at the fore. And popular culture and popping violence aren't far behind.

The meaning - and irony - of Kaboom's title doesn't become clear until a beat or two before the end credits roll, and even then it's hard to say what exactly Araki is getting at.

Lots of sex - straight, gay, group - has preceded this jolting finale, as have a car chase, a shootout, a viral mystery, a serious vomit or two, and some sharp observations about fashion, '80s new wave, and Mel Gibson.

Is there anything left to explore?


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.

 

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