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Beach Rats

I think I saw nine feature films plus some shorts at this year’s Provincetown International Film Festival in June—and an excellent bunch of movies it was. This is not a gay-themed festival, but—this being P’town—a healthy proportion (a third?) of the films on offer had an LGBT-theme. I saw four films in that genre that I’d like to bring to your attention – the fourth and final is below.

But first, two disconnected observations about these films, and those at past festivals, as a whole: 1) People smoke lot more in indie movies than they do in real life. 2) Comedy is hard. There’s not much of it at indie film festivals, and when it does materialize, it isn’t very funny. 3) There are so many production companies involved in the making of these films, I’ve given up trying to list them all.

 

Beach Rats
Directed by Eliza Hittman

 

This is a coming-of-age story about a working-class kid in Brooklyn who hangs out with a trio of thuggish friends and does drugs while struggling with being gay (he spends a lot of time on a Manhunt-like website). Frankie is super easy on the eyes, and he’s almost never out of our sight. The only time we’re not looking at Frankie is when we’re seeing the world from his point of view, as when he’s high on uppers and pot at a loud outdoor dance party trying to impress both his posse and his girlfriend, and the world is spinning out of control. Did I mention that he has a girlfriend? Like many men in his situation, he goes out of his way to be seen in public with a female friend, even while desperately trying to avoid a private encounter that could easily end in failure. The boys drift through summer, hanging out at the beach and at penny arcades, until they start to run low on money and drugs—a normal prelude to the end of innocence. Frankie’s penchant for hooking up with guys he meets online converges with the need for weed in a particularly sinister way. (Annoyingly, the film implies that marijuana is the kind of drug that people steal and kill for.) As Frankie descends deeper into survival mode, a question arises: will he perform a single decent act that could prove he’s a human being? The answer, alas—spoiler alert—is likely to disappoint.

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