Ken Park is about several Californian skateboarders' lives and relationships with and without their parents.Ken Park is about several Californian skateboarders' lives and relationships with and without their parents.Ken Park is about several Californian skateboarders' lives and relationships with and without their parents.
Though the sleepy suburb in this movie might qualify as quintessential Americana by definition of many, I can assure you that the stuff that happens over there takes place all over the world. A lot of things both the adolescents and their parents go through were instantly recognizable to me personally, and I'm a 35 (going on 36) year old employee from that minuscule ant heap of a country called Belgium. How's that for universal appeal ?
Too many adult viewers would still seem to prefer to deny the very possibility that their teen-aged children harbor strong sexual desires, let alone the likely consequence that they've already acted upon them ! It may strike some as slightly unsavory that now 59 year old Larry Clark addresses such issues (especially given the level of unflinching honesty and carnal frankness demonstrated here), as he did in both KIDS and BULLY previously, but nearly no one else apparently dares to come anywhere near this topic as of yet. Much more than simply courting controversy, Clark (and co-helmer Lachman) have crafted a beautiful, funny, touching, heartbreaking and absolutely haunting (those final frames with the titular Ken Park will be etched in my mind for life) work of, yes, art.
A lot of older viewers have remarked that the film is somehow unfairly slanted in favor of the young characters (compelling actors the lot of them), rendering the adults as grotesque caricatures. As far as I'm concerned, only very inattentive viewers could ever come up with that assessment. Tate's grandparents may initially come across as whiny and pathetic yet there's a sweet little scene later on that shows their genuine affection for one another. It is both telling and sad that their grisly fate apparently elicits far less shocks from its audiences than those scant minutes of groin action. A world gone mad, indeed.
Claude's macho dad is another case in point. His ultimate transgression towards his son manages to be both disturbing and weirdly touching. Each adult character (let's not forget Claude's mom, engagingly portrayed by the underrated Amanda Plummer) gets at least one scene where the admittedly stereotypical surface is scratched away and subtleties like a single wounded glance can turn the whole story on its head. I sincerely love this movie precisely for doing just that.
- May 30, 2003