Gregg Araki’s Kaboom (2010)

Smith (Thomas Dekker) is an 18-year old university student majoring in film studies that is having both weird and wet dreams, right before his 19th birthday. After a series of hook-ups and seemingly random sexual encounters, shit is really starting to get crazy: Men in animal masks appear, a creepy girl with superpowers and a voodoo doll and of course all kinds of kinky sex. After a couple of days of confusion and meaningless sex, Smith however starts to realize what’s going on, but is he in time to save the world from its impending doom and an evil cult leader determined blow it up? 

Kaboom is a charming film, beautifully shot in bright, saturated colors, that supply almost feel too fake to be true. Yet, strangely the film provides a wholly immersive experience, probably fueled by Araki’s intuitive and appropriate use of shoegaze. Much like Sofia Coppola, another fan of the genre, Gregg Araki allows you to really feel the film.
The dialogue doesn’t always come through like you’d want and feels scripted and clichéd in some instances, but it’s always funny and quotable. Gregg seems to be winking at the audience, acknowledging and fully embracing the silliness of the story. That’s partly why I can forgive some of movie’s obvious flaws.

Thomas Dekker, the leading man of this picture, does a fine job most of the time and I couldn’t imagine this film without it; however he seems to be trying too hard in some scenes, bordering the line of over-acting, you can see his acting. While it’s a bit distracting, the supporting cast, with Araki regular James Duval as the ridiculously named Messiah, does a fantastic job of making you forgive him. Another minor distraction is the use of purposely bad transitions; I’m more of a fan of the traditional fade to black, but it adds to the quirky spirit of the film, which I’m all for. It is in fact more than anything it’s the films’ goodhearted nature and sweetness I take away and remember most fondly.

Reliving all these emotions for the third time, this is one of my favorite films, I noticed a lot of new things. Some of the scenes are really “useless”, in that they don’t help forwarding the plot, but are mostly there to be funny and help creating a mood. That’s partly where the appeal of the film lies for me: It’s not so much plot driven as it is a portrayal of the college experience and what it means to be a young adult, a transitional stage between “high-school and the rest of your life” as one of the character puts it. In that regard the movie succeeds completely, because it really captures what it’s like to ‘feel lost’.

This is a very personal piece for Gregg Araki, once again mastering his sub-genre, while making a statement on the future of film, and blending different genres for a highly satisfying experience. Kaboom won the first ever Queer Palm at the 63rd edition of the Cannes Film Festival and is indeed recommended for fans of his other work, if you like unique and unusual films or if you just want to see the only car chasing sequence ever playing to shoegaze.

Rating on 3rd Viewing
(on my laptop)
8.5 out of 10


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