Coming off his Call Me by Your Name breakout, Timothée Chalamet stars in yet another steamy coming-of-age period piece set in the summertime. If that all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Elijah Bynum’s messy debut film is only bearable thanks to Chalamet’s charisma.
Set in Cape Cod in 1991, Hot Summer Nights captures the languor of a wealthy vacation town with a druggy underbelly. Chalamet’s unassuming character, Daniel, soon becomes a part of that scene after being sent there to summer with his aunt. There, he meets Hunter Strawberry (Alex Roe), a cool, dangerous, drug-dealing older kid whose reputation apparently warrants one of those Mean Girls–style faux talking heads. “I heard he killed a man,” several kids say. Hunter recruits the sweet-faced, brainy Daniel for his booming weed business. Meanwhile, Daniel falls for Hunter’s beautiful sister McKayla (Maika Monroe); she’s technically off limits but Daniel’s raging hormones make it impossible to follow bro code.
The flirty pursuit is fun, but the film takes a chaotic turn when the criminal activity catches the attention of another drug dealer (Emory Cohen). Suddenly, the movie wants to be Goodfellas: The Teen Years. Bynum also makes a lot of corny choices — jump cuts to mirror drug-addled paranoia, saccharine needle drops, and inserts of photos that force-feed you nostalgia.
Hot Summer Nights
Written and directed by Elijah Bynum
A24 and DIRECTV
Opens July 27, Cinema
Available on DIRECTV
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 24, 2018