Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Natural Sensual

Beach Rats (2017) - Hittman
Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 12.10.00 AM
Finally, an American female filmmaker who is not afraid of depicting sexuality frankly on screen! Eliza Hittman hit all the right notes with her new film Beach Rats, set in Sheepshead Bay, a seldom represented Brooklyn neighborhood in movies.

It concerns Frankie (Harris Dickenson), a boyishly handsome young man with a sculpted body, hanging out in the lazy Summer with his cropped haired buddydudes, sucking at vapor at a smoke shop and strolling on the beach and boardwalks. But at night, he prowls gay internet site for quick meet-and-fucks. It's a secret no one- his family (mom and younger sister) and his buddydudes, knows about. He usually prefers older man. With his dad dying of cancer at home, the boy's got some daddy issues. On the Coney Island boardwalk, he hooks up with pretty party girl Simone (Madeline Weinstein). She is a good front to hide his homosexuality. The only problem is he can't really be intimate with her unless on drugs or some sort of stimulant.

Beach Rats is obviously influenced by Denis's Beau Travail in its sensuality and lyricism. Running just over an hour and a half and shot on grainy 16mm, the film is a tight sketch of an ordinary young man unsure of his sexuality and seeking acceptance. Hittman doesn't shy away from showing graphic depiction of teenage sex and gay sex. She is also keenly aware of voyeuristic, narcissistic culture we are living in with abundance of selfies and social network. But what I'm most impressed with is her command with characters. Even though its young leads are exceptionally, almost stereotypically (in Abercrombe Fitch advert sense) good looking, that fact never overwhelms the story she tells, and same with its her aesthetics: sensuality comes off naturally, not staged - there are no lingering body shots or slow-mos.

Dickenson, a fair-haired, blue eyed star of the film is nothing but revelation here. His vulnerability and confusion, shared with youthful narcissism and goodness hidden behind the pretty façade are all staggering. Without ever delving into stereotypes, Beach Rats succeeds in telling a lean, sensual coming-of-age story that feels both very real and truthful.