Stream of Consciousness Directing
Yes, I am calling TRL so that they play Jared Leto’s newest single.
Starring: Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett
Review by Robert Patrick
Gregg Araki’s newest opus, “Kaboom”, is akin to being Rick Rolled by a lobotomized David Lynch. Nothing really makes sense in this film, aside from the fact that it has to do with a first year college student that, after taking some drugs, is experiencing some rather prolonged side effects. Imagine staring into a kaleidoscope while someone flings glitter at you, and you pretty much have an idea of the bombastic proceedings. Thomas Dekker, whom I believed to be Jared Leto for the first sixty minutes of the film, plays Smith, a bisexual freshman at a San Diego area college. His best friend, Stella, is a bubble gum version of “Daria”. Her eyelids are forever at half mast with indifference, while, more often than not, she enjoys her conversations shaken and not stirred – she loves to rattle those around her. Meanwhile, Smith’s roommate, Thor (most apropos name ever) is a loopy and spontaneous surfer kid. When he isn’t grazing in the sun, he is smiling like a “Never Ending Summer” version of James Franco. Smith is attracted to him, but doesn’t particularly know, even though he senses signs of it, if Thor is gay or not. This is the innocuous synopsis of the film before the axis of rationality collapse. After this rather tepid set-up, Araki gives us an entirely different movie, complete with witchcraft, action scenes straight out of “24”, and an impromptu “How To” manual on oral sex.
“Kaboom”, from the distant gazes of its cast to its cubic zirconium dialogue, lives in a plastic world of awkwardness and stilted human behavior. This movie feels like it was written by Bret Easton Ellis in the first half, directed by Roger Avery in the second, and seduced into a spy thriller by Hal Ashby by the finale. There is absolutely no rhythm to “Kaboom”; the film operates like a freewheeling jazz band under heavy intoxication. The picture is also inundated with the adolescent fuzz of indie rock: Radio Dept kisses each scene by providing airy, lo-fi offerings of angst. This movie is a personal one for Araki: the director hasn’t written a film for himself in years. And because this filmmaker needed an outlet, perhaps this movie is solely for himself. There isn’t an audience for this film (well, perhaps artsy film students who enjoy low grade “Twin Peaks” themes). The ideas in “Kaboom” seem like things that someone would scribble about in a journal, during a psychological exercise, and then never open again. The thing is stream of consciousness directing. And while some parts are amusing (AOL Messenger looks like a blue screen, something that you would only see if your computer crashes) the film is too indulgent to care about. I cant really call it a wreck, because, in some perverse way that I’m unaccustomed to, Araki probably intended it to be one.
For so much going on the film itself, the pacing feels, for lack of a better way to explain myself, completely awful. I blame this on the fact that this film doesn’t a protagonist or an antagonist. These characters don’t have personalities; they have reactions. So, yes, “Kaboom” is a hallucinatory nightmare born out of wafting college rock and thorny, sexual exploration – and themes of Cold War paranoia. If you go in thinking “mystery elements blended with college humor”, you may be expecting “Veronica Mars”, which this is not. This movie is someone kicking over a punch bowl into your lap at a party. Or maybe worse. In the end, at least Araki is an interesting director. I also love him for keeping those close-ups of food in his films. This film is so completely out of control and under the influence, you may want to call it a cab.