Beach Rats (2017)

Beach Rats
Director: Eliza Hittman
Writer: Eliza Hittman
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate HodgeNeal Huff
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 21.10.2017

Summer is hot and long. Getting away from his oppressive family environment, Frankie (Harris Dickinson) spends it hanging around with his rough group of friends and flirting with Simone (Madeline Weinstein). When he’s alone, he uses the internet to meet and sleep with older men. These two parts of his life are strictly separated as Frankie tries to figure out who he is and where he belongs.

Beach Rats is not a bad film, but I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would. It stays a little too much on well-established grounds for its own good.

Being a bi woman myself, I make it a point to look for and see films with queer characters. So I’ve seen my fair share of films that deal with young, not out, gay men who are caught between their straight environment, societal ideas about masculinity and their own desires. It’s an interesting topic and one well worth to examine, but to me, it didn’t add anything new to the usual narrative.

Which is not necessarily an untrue narrative, but it’s not the only one out there and there should be a little more variety in the stories we tell about queer kids. Maybe my discontentment with the narrative also stems from the fact that I’m also a little uncomfortable when (presumably) straight women tell stories about gay men, especially when they’re so obsessed with the male body as Beach Rats is.

That being said, Beach Rats does have strengths. It manages to pack a lot in its 90 minutes runtime so that the film feels longer than it is without feeling lengthy. And while a lot of the acting is very obviously amateurish, the film strikes gold with both Harry Dickinson and Madeline Weinstein. Especially the latter’s Simone captured my attention and I really wish that the film was more about her. (Also, I want Kate Hodge to record every voice-over ever, and all of the audiobooks and everything I ever have to listen to. What a voice.)

Altogether the film is not without its charms, has very nice cinematography and manages to get up close and personal to Frankie, it doesn’t quite come together in the end – and left me more unsatisfied than I would have liked.

Summarizing: Falls a little short but is interesting enough to check out.

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