Unlike Spectacular Now and Mud, The Kings of Summer is a very funny comedy, with occasionally broad performances by comedians Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Kumail Nanjiani. Kings straddles this sit-comic approach to the suburban scenes with a Malickian approach to all of the scenes in the forest. The woods look gorgeous: the boys look out at the sunset, and play in the lake, and walk in open meadows, and it really feels like they are outside of the absurd world of suburbia that their parents inhabit. But these are two entirely different filmmaking styles, and if they don't actually belong together, their juxtaposition works very well, so that it made me appreciate the boys' forest retreat all the more. The dream of "getting out into nature" makes much more sense when it is clear how absolutely nonsensical life is in suburbia.
|Toy's House (this film's former title)|
But I liked Kings better. It is a self-aware film that captures something of the absurdity of adolescence and the impossibility of certain modes of existence. Vogt-Roberts casts a withering gaze at masculinity, and, by way of derision, he mocks the idea that traditional masculinity is the proper telos for adolescence. This is is a very funny film, and if it doesn't quite do realism and honesty as well as The Spectacular Now or suspense as well as Mud, The Kings of Summer has an exquisite and hilarious charm all its own.
P.S. I really do feel strange about liking so many movies that center around male adolescence this year. I wonder what's come over me! Feeling nostalgia over my youth, I suppose.