SUMMERING -- Stand By She
Review by Adam Donato
Summering was an official selection at Sundance Film Festival this year. It’s directed by James Ponsoldt, who is best known for the film adaptation of The Spectacular Now. The plot follows four young girls trying to enjoy the final days of summer before entering middle school and their teenage years. After finding a dead body in the woods, the girls make it their mission to solve the case and reflect upon their lives in the process. The most notable star in the movie is Lake Bell, who plays one of the girl’s mothers. While child actors are usually known for their poor acting, is Ponsoldt’s direction enough to ward off the August blues?
For any film fan who is paying attention, it’s obvious that the plot of Summering has too much in common with the Stephen King classic, Stand By Me. Four kids go on an adventure centered around a dead body. This time around, the four kids are girls, so it’s not unlike Ghostbusters (2016) or Ocean’s 8. The trend of rebooting male-dominated movies with women in the starring roles lives on. That being said, the kids being girls impacts the plot more so than the franchises previously referenced. Girls at that age are going through similar, but different experiences, which adds a new perspective to this story. Most of the downtime in this movie centers around their pontifications surrounding this end of an era in their lives. Therefore, this rehash feels more justified.
One stark contrast to Stand By Me in Summering is this paranormal element that comes into play. Some scenes feel like they’re straight out of a direct-to-DVD horror movie. This doesn’t not make sense in the context of the story, but it definitely stands out amongst the rest of the plot. There is a dead body, which would be a scary thing for anybody to deal with, let alone a group of little girls. Most of the movie has this indie trash vibe going on so splicing in horror sequences feels out of place. The indie trash is ripe with this one. It makes sense for the girls to be having deep conversations about life, not only because of their current station, but encountering a dead body would make anybody question their mortality.
Are child actors not good actors or are children annoying protagonists to follow in movies? One might say this movie doesn’t appeal to critics because they’re not in the demographic, which skews towards young women. If that was the case, then why would something like Eighth Grade be so critically beloved? Authenticity is one of the biggest issues when it comes to child actors. If somebody were to dismiss child performances due to the fact that kids are weird, then that’s acceptable. In Summering, the kids are weird and annoying, but that’s how kids are in real life. Obviously, don’t watch this if you can't tolerate youths.
Overall this movie isn’t egregiously bad, just so dismissable. The tone is muddled and the concept is derivative. It's definitely a step down for Ponsoldt. It would be interesting to know if this movie translates with little girls, but the horror sequences are probably enough to scare away the kind of girl who would relate to having helicopter parents. This movie is for nobody. View at your own caution.
Summering hits theaters on August 12.
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