What a way to go
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