What a way to go

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

LES­BIAN WITCHCRAFT. Nu­clear apoca­lypse. Om­ni­sex­ual hump­ing. A dooms­day cult. It can only be a Gregg Araki joint.

Hark­ing back to the giddy fin de siè­cle of the mav­er­ick au­teur’s Doom Gen­er­a­tion tril­ogy, Ka­boom charts the ad­ven­tures of Smith (Thomas Dekker from Ter­mi­na­tor: The Sarah Con­nor Chron­i­cles), a young “un­de­clared” bi­sex­ual torn be­tween his hot straight guy col­lege room­mate (Chris Zylka) and a free-spir­ited slap­per (Juno Tem­ple).

Be­tween var­i­ously an­gled trysts and fab­u­lously catty heart-to-hearts with slinky BFF Stella (Ha­ley Bennett), Smith is in­creas­ingly trou­bled by strange, vivid dreams of end times and mys­te­ri­ous men in an­i­mal masks. Might it have some­thing to do with his long-gone fa­ther, or Stella’s oc­cultist girl­friend, or that weird re­li­gious sect on the news? Many naked peo­ple get to shout “plough me” at one an­other be­fore the wacky truth is re­vealed.

The pop­u­lar win­ner of last year’s in­au­gu­ral Queer Palm at Cannes plays through its many twists and turns at break­neck speed. The bac­cha­na­lian cam­pus ac­tion and screw­ball rhythms are matched by ex­changes that might make the Sex and the City crew blush. Bennett’s tart de­liv­ery of colour­ful metaphors – “He was putting a load in some pin­head’s dryer last night”; “You meet some guy on a nude beach and af­ter five min­utes you’re down­load­ing his hard drive in the back of a van” – leaves view­ers in lit­tle doubt why she won the role over Rooney Mara.

For all the ex­u­ber­ance of Ka­boom’s swing­ing stu­dent sex party, there’s noth­ing pruri­ent about Araki’s gaze. The di­rec­tor’s in­ter­est in sex­u­al­ity, as ever, seeks the com­mon hu­man­ity in gooey ex­changes. His scen­esters may echo the naughty ni­hilists of Brett Eas­ton El­lis’s The Rules of At­trac­tion but, for all its im­pend­ing doom, the Araki­verse is a much friend­lier, less judg­men­tal place to be.

Back in the 1990s, the same di­rec­tor was hailed as a movie mes­siah, the bringer of a new rad­i­cal queer blue­print for in­de­pen­dent Amer­i­can cin­ema. Araki, like fel­low ti­tan Todd Haynes, has kept pace with the shift­ing se­man­tics of the era.

And right now, rad­i­cal queer is for ev­ery­body.


The end of the world as they know it: Tem­ple and Dekker in Ka­boom Di­rected by Gregg Araki. Star­ring Thomas Dekker, Ha­ley Bennett, Chris Zylka, Juno Tem­ple

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