The Last Summer (2019)

“It’s the last Summer after High School ends.”

The first ten minutes of The Last Summer were some of the worst I’ve seen this entire year. They felt like I was watching a choreographed, rehearsed open similar to MTV’s wannabe reality series Siesta Key, and the immediate scenes don’t improve things much either. But the film is longer than expected – nearly 20 minutes added on to the typical 90 minute run time – and the length gives this story the legs required to ditch the training wheels and learn how to run a mile in its own shoes. It’s not a great movie by any measure, and sorely needed a female voice in the writer’s room, yet it does evolve and eventually mature into a respectably cheesy one.

From the abrupt and unconvincing jump, The Last Summer isn’t far off from being compared to a lottery scratch-off ticket. It seems implausible and impossible that this impulsive, unwitting endeavor could enrich its worth. And that’s why it’s so important to watch the whole movie, to listen to the entire song, to read the book from start to finish before really forming an opinion. The Last Summer began as one of the most miserable movies I’ve seen this year and had the stamina to become something I could stomach, and it’s the kind of movie that lives in both the preconceived “Netflix and Chill” first impressions the film initially gives off while also adding care on the back-end. There’s a little more to this than immediately meets the eye.

The Last Summer spins its narrative bottle around the bonfire, and the character who guides the story is Griffin (K.J. Apa), a Columbia bound business student with an ear for artful audio mixing (it’s unfortunate that his niche passion exists in a movie with rather awful sound throughout). Griffin chases after Phoebe (Maia Mitchell), his old grade school crush and a young lady determined to make a documentary (about what, we never really know) with hopes of getting into NYU. Other storylines flood the system and are surprisingly more full-bodied than you might expect. Alec (Jacob Latimore) amicably breaks up with long-time girlfriend Erin (Halston Sage). He spends the dog days sealing blacktop driveways alongside Foster (Wolfgang Novogratz), the muscly and horny dousche with a long shopping list of pottential lays. All the while, Erin catches – or is saved by – the attention of Chicago Cubs rookie Ricky (Tyler Posey). Her best friend Audrey (Sosie Bacon) takes a personal assistant gig and weighs her college options. There’s also Reece (Mario Revolori) and Chad (Jacob McCarthy), two 18-year-olds who dress is draping suits and easily blend in at a bar with a stockbroker clientele in hopes of scoring more points than they otherwise would playing video games in a basement.

I’ve never believed in the phrase guilty pleasure. Why should we feel bad about liking something? And still, I’m not really sure why I came to enjoy the second half of The Last Summer and its corny, unbelievable, greatly exaggerated portrayal of young adults. They don’t talk this precisely or clean (the mostly horrendous dialogue is far and away the worst part of the film). Blow-out parties like the ones shown here are far less common than the movie might make you think. The person to person interactions never really feel entirely human. Everything is amplified and overstated, which in a weird way, actually lends itself well to an age group where some are forced to make the first big decisions of their lives. “Where should I go for college?” Do you think we should break up?” “I think that I love you.” Some truly great films about this age group (Lady Bird, The Spectacular Now, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) capture and expose raw emotions. The Last Summer is different because it paints the same sentiments over with color and confetti.

The Last Summer is like an updated, modern, 90’s to early 2000’s inspired film in that way. It has plenty of similarities to American Pie minus all the filth. Elements from Can’t Hardly Wait shine through, as does Clueless in spats. That’s not to say or even suggest that Netflix’s latest romantic comedy is anywhere close to the same level as any of the movies I’ve mentioned. It simply isn’t qualitywise. But besides being a sucker for wanting to watch two people find love – which the plot pursues from multiple angles here – what pulled me in most was the fact that none of these young adults are mean people. They’re flawed and they don’t always make the right decisions, but I can’t say that any of them were downright cruel. If only that line of thinking wasn’t so unorthodox, and if only it was represented in a better film.

“Why would you ever just settle for anything”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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