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Red Hook Summer (2012)

R | | Drama | 17 May 2013 (Brazil)
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A middle-class boy from Atlanta finds his worldview changed as he spends the summer with his deeply religious grandfather in the housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn.

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Sumayya Ali ...
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Charles Anthony Bryant ...
Janinah Burnett ...
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Courtney D. Carey ...
Jim Davis ...
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Shani Foster ...
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A middle-class boy from Atlanta finds his worldview changed as he spends the summer with his deeply religious grandfather in the housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn.

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Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief violence, language and a disturbing situation | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

17 May 2013 (Brazil)  »

Also Known As:

Verão em Red Hook  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$40,070 (USA) (10 August 2012)

Gross:

$338,803 (USA) (16 November 2012)
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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is the sixth film in Spike Lee's series "Brooklyn Chronicles". See more »

Connections

Referenced in Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Help me see my faith in God"
23 April 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Lee has some more words to say in the 'universe' of the Brooklyn of She's Gotta Have it - where Nola Darling is now Mother Darling, a devout member of the church - and Do the Right Thing - where Mookie is now Mr. Mookie, still delivering pizzas for Sal's so that he's "Gotta get paid". Why he's delivering pizzas for Sal's doesn't matter (I guess, check out a Q&A to get a hilarious explanation for that, but I digress); what matters for Lee is that now there's another dimension which is the spiritual, and that a human being doesn't necessarily have to believe in God to find some kind of spirit that has been not really around him before. Yes, even if it's a thirteen year old who is already still dealing with the passing of his father in Afghanistan.

Red Hook Summer could be considered 'minor' in his body of work, but within the dimensions he sets up for himself he manages to pull off something he hasn't done in a while, at least by a script he originally wrote himself (co-written with James McBride): it's by turns fearless and funny. How's it fearless? Lee takes the story into what we expect will be a usual route - boy plopped in new surroundings, boy grows a bit, boy sees some things differently - and then the rug is pulled out from under him and everyone else. How is it funny? In the way the previous Brooklyn films were funny, with some bizarre-but-light characters (the drunk here is like a cousin of Ossie Davis' Da Mayor), and the natural dialog which Lee mostly still has an ear for from the streets he came from.

Clark Peters is absolutely unstoppable here with how powerful he is. What Lee does for Peters is give him a character to have depth and dimension, and pathos, so that even when he's at first and later presented in the In-His-Ways Bible-Man that he is to his grandson, Peters conviction in the part takes it a long way. In an odd way it's like Michael Parks in Red State, only here it's with less of the overt evil. The Bishop is a good man, or at least tries to be in the face of the tough times in Red Hook, and when he hits the pulpit it's much easier to get the crowd going than it is to reach out to stubborn Silas/Flik, who can't stop looking "through his box" as he calls the I-pad 2.

Indeed Peters is so good that when Lee goes for some stylistic flourishes (some intended, and some, like the crosses appearing in his eyes in a startling close-up in one shot, not), Peters' face and cinematic charisma makes it go even further, to the point where by the time a major conflict arises in the third act, the audience has to contend with looking at him and everything else with another point of view. This leads up to a four or five minute tracking shot that is among the best Lee's done in his career (you'll know it when you see it, simple but true in its execution).

The first problem Lee has here is that he cast two unknown people, Jules Brown and Toni Lysaith, in roles that require a lot of them as children. Unlike in Crooklyn, where Lee was able to get some strong, naturalistic acting from his kids, here the non-professionals (plucked, as Lee said at a Q&A, from a local middle school) are either flat in their delivery, and usually with dialog that is either just decent or stilted, or just bad.

Like, Is-This-By-a-Professional-Filmmaker bad; mostly it's that when Lee has to give them dramatic stuff to do - when the kids have to act like kids, it's not too bad when they have to hit their one notes - that it is just embarrassing to watch. The other problem is music, which is more of a mixed bag: some of the music, like the original compositions by Bruce Hornsby, are memorably engaging and a couple of times (i.e. the tracking shot I mentioned earlier) music is used to incredibly moving use in the context of the scene... other times, it felt like Lee just put music to a scene that either didn't need it, or mucked around with a dramatic tone he was going for in the dialog and performances.

While I don't think Red Hook Summer is THE Return of Spike Lee as has been potentially proclaimed in advance by just the nature of the location and its independent street-cred (like She's Gotta Have It it was shot in a little over a dozen days for way under a million dollars), it's not at all a failure either. It has some vitality, poignancy, and the points that Lee puts in for characters to say as perhaps his mouth-piece on some recent issues (racism, gentrification, faith) feel more natural than I would've expected. It's still Spike Lee so it's Loud and Proud and is not really subtle. But then, if it's still got energy and a funk to it, maybe not-really-subtle isn't too bad.


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