SPF-18 (2017)

SPF-18
Director: Alex Israel
Writer: Michael Berk
Cast: Carson Meyer, Noah Centineo, Bianca A. Santos, Jackson White, Sean Russel Herman, Rosanna Arquette, Molly Ringwald, Goldie Hawn, Keanu Reeves, Pamela Anderson
Seen on: 8.11.2020

Plot:
Penny (Carson Meyer) has always loved Johnny (Noah Centineo), and finally they found their way to each other. Now they finished school and summer stretches before them. Johnny is housesitting Keanu Reeves’ beach house and invites Penny. Since Penny assumes, hopes and fears that this will mean that they will finally have sex, she asks her cousin Camilla (Bianca A. Santos) along as moral support. Things get complicated afterwards, though. Young musician Ash (Jackson White) who is camping at the beach, joins them and Penny and he have an instant connection. Johnny is generally distant, trying to figure out where to head next. As is Bianca, who is afraid that nobody takes her serious. As the summer draws on and they learn to surf together, decisions have to be made.

SPF-18 is a mess with some nice cameos. I got the distinct impression that this was made by somebody so privileged, they live in a world entirely unlike mine, and it shows in pretty much everything. It’s a film utterly removed from the reality of most people – and doesn’t even know it.

The film poster showing five people with surfboards on the beach, getting ready to hit the waves.

[SPOILERS]

All the kids in this film live in the glitzy Hollywood part of the world. Penny’s mother (Molly Ringwald) is an actress. Johnny housesits for Keanu Reeves (who makes an appearance at the end of the film, as does Pamela Anderson). They are beautiful, rich and carefree and live safely in the knowledge that everything will work out for them – and it does.

Camilla decides that she wants a custom designed body suit for surfing, so she goes to the next surfshop, where she is told to just go ahead and by the end of the film, a large contract looms. Johnny isn’t sure whether he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps as a pro surfer (his father died surfing), but it is just a question of deciding – when he does, he is immediately scouted, despite not having properly surfed for years. Ash is unhappy what the label is pushing him to do with his music, so he ran away (that he is already amazingly privileged to have a label at all never seems to cross the movie’s mind – of course you will have a label when you decide to pursue music). And then it takes them about 30 seconds to figure out a solution and go viral with a video.

Penny (Carson Meyer) and Johnny (Noah Centineo) standing on a balcony over the sea.

That ease extends to their interpersonal relationships as well: Johnny sleeps with Camilla, but Penny doesn’t really mind, not for very long, because Ash is already waiting in the wings and she and Johnny are better off as friends anyway. On the one hand, I liked that not everything has to become a five series drama all the time, but on the other hand, it just didn’t feel earned here. There was no indication whatsoever beforehand that Penny wouldn’t mind, and it was an absolutely shitty thing to do.

That the film is only 75 minutes long (and that really everyone, especially Noah Centineo, is so pretty) is its saving grace, but also a problem – if it had taken more time to actually give these characters a personality, it might have sucked less.

Camilla (Bianca A. Santos) and Penny (Carson Meyer).

Summarizing: leave it.

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