Instead of adhering to the norms of their South Central neighborhood, a group of skater boys opt to bus into Hollywood and Beverly Hills, where they attract local rich girls - and plenty of...
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A story centered on a directionless 16-year-old living in Marfa, Texas and his relationships with his girlfriend, his neighbor, his teacher, a newly arrived local artist, and a local Border Patrol officer.
Jeremy St. James
Instead of adhering to the norms of their South Central neighborhood, a group of skater boys opt to bus into Hollywood and Beverly Hills, where they attract local rich girls - and plenty of trouble with the police, jealous boyfriends, and nervous parents. Written by
If I were to summarize this film in short, I'd have to call it a Comedy that is somewhat like a mainstream version of "KIDS".
I've been a fan of coming of age films for many years. I've seen all of Clark's work, along with numerous international films such as Pixote, Nunmal, Timeless/Bottomless and many, many other films that fall within the genre. What I've always found appealing about Clarks work is the bleak outlook and hopeless feeling you'd get after watching his films. Even while many criticized Ken Park for being more shock then substance, it still gave me that "feeling" that KIDS did. This is what I had hoped for going into Wassup Rockers. I wasn't really concerned with the "shock value" of say a Ken Park, but I was looking for that same feeling I got after watching "Kids".
I didn't get that feeling.
Now while watching Wassup Rockers I'd find it hard to believe one couldn't make comparisons to KIDS. The movie opens with the camera pointed at a young boy named Jonathan, who basically outlines what we're about to see over the remained of the film. He talks about his friends and their habits, and the types of things he does or sees on a daily basis. It's very reminiscent of the begging of KIDS when Telly's commentary starts the film off discussing girls. You then have various scenes depicting some of the activities the youth get into. In KIDS you've see the skateboarding, the drinking, the blunt rolling and the girls.. In Wassup you see pretty much the same, minus the drugs and drinking, something there is NONE OF in this film. You do however get a scene in which two males are talking about their "first time", much like the scene in KIDS when Rosario Dawson and Chloe were in the bedroom with two friends discussing oral sex. It's not that this is a KIDS 'remake' more than it just felt very similar in terms of the content.
Now for the things that failed. First, this has to be the worst acted film Clark has worked on. I understand and appreciate the fact he found these kids in South Central on the street, but there were times in which the acting was so poor it just wasn't believable. I just couldn't believe one of the confrontations between a group of African Americans and the crew for example. It almost seemed like someone was standing off to the side waving "say something!". When speaking after the film Clark mentioned that the script was a mere 32 pages, and a lot was improve, and that would explain some of the acting. Think about this for a second. You found a group of kids who have never acted before and you ask them to improvise the majority of the script. While I'll admit this makes the film feel genuine at times, it also makes it feel forced at times as well. I'm also not sure how many Clark fans will find his 'upbeat' feel to be a positive change. One of the audience members asked "what happened to you?", even stating that "this film is a feel good film nothing like you've ever done before" upon which Clark responded by saying "I've done Ken Park That's as far as I can go with that. I wanted to do something new something different", and he has. The problem is I liked Larry Clark for that reason, and now I question if he'll ever go back. There is even a parody of Clint Eastwood in the movie, suggesting that it be taken light heatedly.
With all of that being said, I still think this is a big accomplishment for Clark. In my opinion, he went back to the film that started it all and created it in a format that could be enjoyed by more people. His discussed his experience at Cannes and the TIFF a year prior when introducing Ken Park as well. He wanted to be able to reach out to these "fans" he had, yet he couldn't due to their ages and his films ratings. Another one of his comments however may be a little more insightful into the real reason this film was made when he stated "This was the hardest film for me to make". In elaborating on the reasons he touched on a few things, one being investments. He suggested investors had written him off because they considered him "crazy", so it was very hard to get backing. Almost like nobody wanted to risk taking a chance on Clark after Ken Park. I myself wonder if this wasn't the real purpose of this film. He needed a film that could make some money, so he could continue to be a director. Some may refer to this as being a "Sell out" type film, but I won't be that harsh. I can see this film playing in small theatres in the US to be honest, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't get an official DVD release in the US also, something Ken Park has never experienced. I just can't seem to grasp the idea that one of the more controversial directors in America today has decided to create was seems to be an upbeat, mainstream comedy but hell, who am I? So where does that leave it? I didn't enjoy it as much as KIDS, nor do I think it's as good a movie. I'd also argue Bully was better overall. Ken Park on the other hand would make the more interesting debate. Ken Park was more memorable and enjoyable to me, but Wassup Rockers had a lot more substance to it. I guess that means I'm also guilty of the "shock" value Clark films can offer, something Wassup Rockers has left behind.
A good film indeed, but not typical Larry Clark. You can decide if that's a good or bad thing
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