L.A. paranoia is fun, not scary
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, February 25, 2011
A riotously sexual romp across California's least-inhibited campus, "Kaboom" imagines college life as a nonstop series of
explosions, mostly erotic. That's absurd, of course, but logic is one of the many restraints this comedy-thriller blithely ignores.
Seven years ago, writer-director Gregg Araki seemed to enter a new, mature phase with "Mysterious Skin," a sensitive study of the long-term effects of child sexual abuse. But Araki has yet to make another movie like that, and "Kaboom," though better built and more humane than his earlier "The Doom Generation," returns to his in-your-face 1990s 'tude.
Happily, the director's skills have grown since then, and "Kaboom'' is even sort of likable, despite Araki's utter lack of interest in charming anyone who isn't already a member of his small following.
The story revolves around Smith (Thomas Dekker), a slender, brooding bisexual we meet via the alarming dream he's been having nightly. This reverie introduces elements from the conspiracy the movie pursues, energetically if not earnestly.
Smith's best friend is Stella (Haley Bennett), a snarky lesbian who has just started dating Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida). Smith nurses a crush on his oft-naked surfer roommate (Chris Zylka), but ends up in a sexual relationship - intense, if not "serious" - with a blonde adventuress (Juno Temple).
Normally detached and ironic, Stella becomes unnerved when she learns her new girlfriend is a witch. (Not in the "bad temper" sense, although she does have one of those, too.) Meanwhile, Smith becomes convinced that his nightmares and hallucinations indicate a real-life plot. He asks Stella to help him search for evidence of a woman he believes was murdered by men in animal masks. Then comes a frantic call from his Hollywood-hipster mom (Kelly Lynch), who has some admissions to make.
There's so much Smith doesn't know about his life and the world around him, and "Kaboom'' - mocking over-plotted Hollywood intrigues - eventually ties everything together. The movie also delivers, facetiously, on its title.
Naturally, Smith is a film major, and "Kaboom" includes clips from "Andalusian Dog," the surrealist classic, as well as references to movies as diverse as "Eyes Wide Shut" and "The Wizard of Oz." Even the casting is an exercise in cinematic studies: Lynch was in Gus van Sant's "Drugstore Cowboy," and Mesquida in several films by French erotic provocateur Catherine Breillat.
Rendered in bright primary colors and stuffed with music from a dozen contemporary alt-rock and electro-pop bands, "Kaboom" is far from dour. In fact, much of the movie is good (if highly specialized) fun. Smith and Stella may belong to a new doom generation, but Araki's latest foray into L.A. paranoia doesn't intend to scare anyone but the narrow-minded.
Contains nudity, profanity, violence and sexual situations.