The Last Summer (2019) Review
A SHALLOW (AND OUTDATED)
“COMING OF AGE” DRAMEDY
With the increase of popularity, Netflix has cultivated a plethora of movies and tv shows into its online streaming library, finding some to original content and some being purchased from studios. In the realm of teen dramas, Netflix has amassed successful entries, including the tv show 13 Reasons Why and feature films like Kissing Booth and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Now, Netflix and director William Bindley releases the latest addition to the teen-drama lineup with the 2019 “coming of age” dramedy film The Last Summer. But is it worth a watch or is it just a simple a hard pass (swipe left) from the popular streaming service?
Taking place in Chicago, the movie revolves around several recently high school graduates and the summer endeavor each pursue during their “transitional” period between high school and college. First there is Griffin (KJ Apa), who recently returns home from graduating prep school for the summer, and Phoebe (Maia Mitchell), who is working on her first documentary film; finding the pair working together on Phoebe’s project and warming up to each other. Next is Alec (Jacob Latimore) and Erin (Halston Sage), who break-up in order avoid the tragic difficulty of a long-distance relationship once they begin college, with the two starting to date new people for summer: Alec with Paige (Gage Golightly) and Erin with Ricky (Tyler Posey), respectively. Also, Alec’s friend Foster (Wolfgang Novogratz) is on a summer mission for a potential “hook up” list, while Erin’s best friend Audrey (Sosie Bacon) seeks opportunity babysitting a child actress. Meanwhile, nerd friends Reece (Mario Revolori) and Chad (Jacob McCarthy) find themselves to “reinvent their image”, finding acceptance in an adult setting of day traders and business professionals.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Despite the popularity of many viewers “clicking” onto Netflix and binging their favorite TV series and movies on a daily routine basis, I’m not so fan of Netflix. Well, I wouldn’t say that I hate / dislike Netflix, but I just don’t see the “super craze” about it. For starters, most of the tv shows and movies on there I already own or have them “on demand” elsewhere. Next, the contents of Netflix originals are so-so, with only have few of them I like to watch, including House of Cards and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Although, I do want to see Umbrella Academy. Still, while Netflix users / viewers are all the rage in pop culture mediums, I’m more inclined to be on the outskirts of those circles. Again, I’m not a “hater”, but I’m rather not super enthralled in all things Netflix related. I guess that’s my unpopular opinion of sorts. Still, for what it’s worth…it’s a good online streaming service.
Naturally, this brings me back to my current review for The Last Summer, the latest endeavor for feature film presentation to be released on Netflix. As stated above, I usually don’t go on Netflix as much as the normal person, but I occasionally do, which is where I saw the trailer for The Last Summer. Yes, I’ll admit that I do (on occasion) like teen drama movies (some of them are quite good and Hollywood has produced memorable hits throughout the years). After viewing the trailer, I was kind of intrigued by it, especially the concept of the movie and in the “transition” period between high school and college. As of this review, I’ve only reviewed one movie on Netflix (i.e. The Cloverfield Paradox), so I wanted to broaden my “Netflix horizons” and took a chance of watching The Last Summer (the day after its release) with a plan on reviewing it afterwards. What did I think of it? Well, to be honest, I kind of regret watching it. While the premise is indeed a good one, The Last Summer seems like a cobbled-up iteration of cliched teen melodrama / clichés of yesteryear. There’s a story here, but it gets lost within its multiple storylines and choppy characterizations.
The Last Summer is directed by William Bindley, whose previous works include directing such films like Judicial Consent and Madison, but (recently) has acted more as an executive producer for projects such as The Nut Job, Spark: A Space Tail, and Mother’s Day. Effectively, Bindley makes The Last Summer have a certain type of sincerity within its narrative context; finding the summer between high school (teenage adolescence) and college / whatever happens after (adult life) universal appealing, especially since most (if not all) have found themselves in that peculiar “transitional” period in their lives. That’s what intrigued when I saw the trailer for the movie and its something quite meaningful in storytelling; showcasing the transformation of an individual of who they were in high school and who they want to be in the future. Again, it’s a universal theme that everyone can identify with that ultimately works for The Last Summer; finding Bindley’s efforts to match those particular moments in the movie (in a wide variety of scenarios within its characters). Thus, for better or worse, the film definitely has its heart in the right place and Bindley seems to do as well.
Presentation-wise, the film looks okay-ish. The film’s Chicago setting is well utilized for its characters to play around in, using locations and places throughout the feature. However, much of the technical “behind the scenes” merits and endeavors for The Last Summer fall somewhere theatrically adequate to borderline TV movie. Meaning….it’s okay, but feels like something of a TV movie more so than a motion picture feature. That being said, the musical score, composed by Ryan Miller, was slightly better and the various musical selection of songs (playing throughout the film) feel appropriate and are easy on the ears (if you know what I mean).
Unfortunately, The Last Summer comes up more “empty handed” than a celebrated endeavor, finding the movie derivate and cliched throughout almost every scene. The film’s script, which was penned by Bindley and his brother Scott Bindley, attempts to focus on a multitude of storylines with a interconnecting notion of the same idea of experience summer after high school and looking beyond to future prospects. Some of them are friends, but some don’t even cross paths with each other. This idea of cinematic storytelling has been done before in Gary Marshall’s Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve as well as Christian Ditter’s How to be Single, but the Bindley brothers felt to capture the interlacing storytelling in The Last Summer. Why? Well, for starters, there are too many storylines that the Bindley brothers want to tell within the confines of an hour and forty-nine minutes feature (109 minutes). Because of this, the narrative threads of these various teen characters fail to dig deep beyond surface level personalities and challenges in the movie, barely developing beyond their initial one-dimensional stereotypes. You know what I’m talking about…. the classic teen archetype tropes: the kid who went to boarding school and comes back to hook up with a old friend, the girl searching for herself identity, the teen lovers who break up with each other and have different experiences apart from each other, the awkward nerds who want to shed their high school images, the guy who’s on the for “hook ups”, etc…the list goes on, but you get the idea.
What I’m getting at is that these teen characterizations have been done before (most commonly used in the 80s and 90s movies). Thus, The Last Summer feels far removed from present day and seems more in-line with a Hollywood version of today’s teenage adolescent (an ideal of hyper-reality fiction setting). This also applies to the usage of thematic messages that the film presents, especially in many of the character “finding themselves” and embracing who they are and what they want to be in their upcoming adult life. It’s a good idea, but a lot of ideas seem recycled from a multitude of past endeavors as well as being half-baked due to the movie’s time construction. It’s tiresome, boring, predictable, and completely tedious from start to finish. Even the film’s ending, which sort of wraps a lot of the storylines feels incomplete with a somewhat dissatisfying ending that’s leaves a bland / tasteless impression on the movie (as a whole). This, of course, goes back to The Last Summer being overcrammed / overstuffed, making the characters (and their journeys) formulaic and shallow to the touch. As a TV show (like a limited one season endeavor), The Last Summer could’ve worked, allowing the storylines to be fully explored and letting the characters to become more developed. However, the movie just ends up being confusingly outdated and incredibly choppy.
Perhaps one of the saving graces of the movie is the talented young cast of the various teens characters the film follows. Most of them aren’t super popular, but have enough fanbase (from several of their past projects) to make the recognizable. This includes actor KJ Apa (Riverdale and The Hate U Give) as Griffin Hourigan, actress Maia Mitchell (The Fosters and Teen Beach Movie) as Phoebe, actor Jacob Latimore (The Maze Runner and Collateral Beauty), actress Gage Golightly (The Troop and Teen Wolf) as Paige Wilcox, actor Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf and Truth or Dare) as Ricky Santos, and Halston Sage (Paper Towns and The Orville) as Erin. Their likeable charm and screen presence (much like the rest of the cast of characters) are good, but not quite enough to elevate their one-dimensional characters. Apa and Mitchell are the somewhat main characters (i.e. Griffin and Phoebe) in the movie, finding their story arc to be the most compelling. Yet, at the same time, it’s the most cliched, riddled with the commonplace stereotypes of rom-coms / teen drama features. The same can be said with Alec and Erin’s storylines (the “B” storyline of the movie), which (again) is a cliché of commonly used character plot device of two people breaking up and finding love elsewhere (think of how it slightly played out in How to Be Single kind of vibe…. sort of), with characters Ricky and Paige playing the “other lovers” that Alec and Erin find.
The other main characters, including actor Wolfgang Novogratz (Assassination Nation and 9 by Design) as Foster, actress Sosie Bacon (Here and Now and 13 Reasons Why) as Audrey, actor Mario Revolori (Rhett and Link’s Buddy System and Papi Chulo) as Reece, and actor Jacob McCarthy (A.P. Bio and The Drummer and the Keeper) as Chad, seem to have lesser screen time, which makes the narrative journeys less impactful. While Foster and Reece / Chad’s storylines are played for laughs, Audrey’s story seem more interesting, but gets sidetracked in favor of Griffin / Phoebe and Alec / Erin story threads, which makes her journey interesting yet woefully underdeveloped. That being said, I did get a few chuckles out of Reece / Chad’s story, but it seems the least impactful one from everyone else (mostly due to the fact that there characters never interact with the other ones).
Collectively, all these characters are less-developed and are, more or less, predictable, derivate, and just simply “eye rolling” inducing. It’s a good idea to have a young and likeable cast in the movie, but their characters in The Last Summer are dated and have been done better in similar projects.
Given the fact the movie focusses a lot on these characters, the movie doesn’t have a whole lot of large supporting players, but merely has minor ones that mostly have varying plot mechanics to further the narrative for the respective characters. This includes actress Gabrielle Anwar (The Tudors and Burn Notice) as Griffin’s mom, actor Ed Quinn (2 Broke Girls and Eureka) as Griffin’s dad, actress Heidi Johanningmeier (Proven Innocent and Chicago P.D.) as Phoebe’s mom, actor Norman Johnson Jr. (Paradise City and Induced Effect) as Mason, and young actress Brenna Sherman (The Kingsbury Run and Lost in Time) as Sierra. Acting is fine for all these characters, but seem less interesting as they act as minor / forgettable stock-like characters for the feature…. a sort of “window dressing” for the feature’s main protagonist characters….and nothing more. Also, much like the main leads, these characters themselves, despite some having semi-important roles in the movie, feels hollow and uninspiring.
Seventy-two days of chances, experiences, and moments that shape the lives of several post high schoolers before entering college (and therefore adulthood) in the movie The Last Summer. Director William Bindley latest feature collectively tells the tale of what it means of “one last ride” at adolescent youth and discovering “big changes” that happen over the course of their last summer before college. While the premise is there (and is a solid one) and the acting talents are okay, the film struggles to be entertaining; ending up with a choppy, shallow, and overstuff / overcrammed endeavor that’s full of boring teen melodrama. Personally, I was disappointed with this movie. It really could’ve been interesting and definitely had the potential, but it’s generic flow, rushed progression, and half-baked ideas (from better / more memorable features) makes the film less desirable and (to be honest) quite a bore. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is definitely a “skip it” as there’s not much to see, watch, or takeaway from this film from what’s already being said in other similar endeavors. Even if you’re a fan of several members of the young cast, it’s best just to watch them in the more popular / prominent works than this one (you’ll thank me for it). In the end, Netflix has plenty of original content across its streaming service for a viewer’s entertainment appeal, but The Last Summer isn’t a “must see” and ends up being a flat out “snoozer” teen rom-com that burns up quickly like a hot summer romance rather than an enduring relationship.
2.4 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: May 3rd, 2019
Reviewed On: May 8th, 2019
The Last Summer is 109 minutes and isn’t rated by the MPAA, but is rated by TV-14