KABOOM (15): On General Release Friday 10th June
“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine” sang Michael Stipe in one of REM’s less irritating songs. That’s an apt line to describe Gregg Araki’s new film Kaboom, a sci-fi teen comedy above which hangs the vague threat of nuclear annihilation.
It follows Smith (Thomas Dekker) an 18 year old “sexually undecided” college student who lusts after his buff blonde surfer dude roommate Thor (Chris Zylka). But while his fantasies about Thor go unfulfilled, he’s still getting sex from a straight-talking, sarcasm-spewing British girl called London (Juno Temple) and hooks up with a gay guy while sunbathing nude on the beach.
Meanwhile, Smith’s sardonic lesbian best friend Stella (Haley Bennett) has embarked upon a relationship with Lorelei (Roxanna Mesquida) who she suspects is a witch.
His life changes dramatically when he witnesses an apparent murder by men in animal masks after a drug-fuelled party. Initially convinced that he hallucinated the whole thing, he begins to doubt himself when he starts to have oddly specific dreams about the redheaded victim and uncovers evidence that this might all be linked to a mysterious online cult.
Comparisons to John Hughes’s work are going to be inevitable as everyone in Araki’s cast is smart, savvy and has a neat line in acidic put downs (not to mention Haley Bennett recalls Hughes favourite Molly Ringwald albeit with much sharper features) but it’s also tempered by a dose of Brett Easton Ellis: pretty people who have a persistently insouciant attitude towards everything, whether it’s having sex or firing a gun. Fans of David Lynch will also notice an influence as the plot lurches very quickly into the absurd and the animal-masked men recall his disturbing short Rabbits.
Thomas Dekker is a likable lead, a good thing too considering how much time the camera spends focused on his face and he’s given some observant and witty dialogue (he compares film criticism to “studying an animal on the verge of extinction”) but all the best lines go to Juno Temple (“What are you doing? It’s a vagina, not a bowl of spaghetti!”).
Kaboom is full of pretty people having sex and there’s this nagging feeling that that’s all it’s about. The chaotic plot rattles along at a fast pace but there’s something inconsequential about everything; it might indulge in its characters’ hedonistic excesses and take trippy journeys into the weird and wonderful but ultimately these journeys lead nowhere.
That’s part of the point though. Kaboom is certainly never boring– if anything it tantalises by dangling the promise that this all might make sense by the conclusion, which is why, when it doesn’t (or rather when its threads get tied up so quickly), it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed. But it’s hard to be annoyed by a film which is so aware of its own superficiality that it mocks its own melodramatic ending even as it’s happening.
If you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride, then Kaboom will tickle your fancy. If you’re looking for something with a little more depth, then you might find yourself out of luck – like someone who ordered trifle and is sad to find that all they got was cream and no jelly.