Thursday, September 01, 2016

Summer of 8: The Last Frolic Before Real Life Starts

It is one of those teen rites of passage. After four years of ruling high school as part of the most popular clique and subsequently lazing through summer spending every day at the beach, you realize your life could potentially be slightly less awesome when you start college with a clean slate. We have all been there, so we can all relate to the pressing First World problems of the seven remarkably fit teens and the crass dude who supplies comic relief in Ryan Schwartz’s Summer of 8 (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Don’t just assume Jesse has it easy because he has an attractive girlfriend, three worshipful best buds, and has apparently never worked a day in his life. He still craves the love and approval of the father who died when he was tragically young. There, don’t you feel small now? Jesse also has a more practical dilemma. Should he try to maintain a long distance relationship with Lily when they go off to different schools, or should he throw her over in favor of someone more convenient. His cool mom Diane will support his decision either way.

Meanwhile, Aiden has one last day to profess his stalkerish love for Serena, who could pass for Jennifer Garner’s kid sister. Oscar the horndog is less fussy. He will sleep with any girl with a pulse. In contrast, the sexually confident Jen is done with high school boys and ready to move up to the collegiate leagues. Although she totally rocks a bikini, Emily the overachiever is starting to regret not sleeping around more, but not enough to get with Oscar. That just leaves codependent Bobby and his conspicuously repressed sexual issues, who is still smarting from Jesse’s last minute decision to attend a different university. Since it is their last day before leaving for college, Jesse has pledged to make it special, with sun and surf and beer and drugs, so really it is just like every other day they passed this summer.

It is easy to snark out over the melodramas of the rich and pretty, but it should be conceded Schwartz really nails the bittersweet vibe of the final hang with school friends. Some might (hopefully) identify with it more in relation to their last day of college, but everyone has gone through those drunken, blubbery “I love you, mans.”

Even though So8 gets the teen fin de siècle atmosphere right, the general tone is still somewhat baffling. It sometimes feels like Schwartz is splitting the difference between a naughty spring break comedy and a teens-are-people-too John Hughes dramedy. It is also hard to get around the fact their issues are all rather small potatoes in the grand scheme of life. The loss of Jesse’s father might have been an exception, but his life appears the most charmed. One thing is certain—nobody mentions a job, not even in the contemptuous past tense.

Yet, So8 will be a nightmare for Occupy Wall Street thugs, because the attractive cast is so likable and engaging on-screen. As Aiden and Serena, Michael Grant and Bailey Noble are particularly effective forging some eleventh hour romantic chemistry together. Matt Shively and Natalie Hall also generate a few welcome laughs as the obnoxious dude and the ice queen. Only in the world of So8 would Rachel DiPillo pass for the shy bookworm, but so be it. Frankly, the weak links are the generic looking Carter Jenkins, Nick Marini, and Shelly Hennig, who are all pretty vanilla as Jesse, Bobby, and Lily. Frankly, Sony Walger dramatically upstages everyone as Diane.

Any way you chose to measure it, So8 is a small film. However, there is no denying the nostalgia for frittered away youth that it inspires. It is also releasing at the perfect time of year for it. If you are looking for a handsome, light-weight, sun-tussled film, Summer of 8 might fit the bill when it opens tomorrow (9/2) in New York, at the Cinema Village.