“Hot Summer Nights” is a sneaky slice of dark Americana, a gorgeously shot, hard truth coming-of-age tale rendered through a lens of innocence and grandeur, a sexy 20th century fairy tale.
Elijah Bynum’s directorial debut catches you off guard. What begins as seemingly a nostalgic ode to early ’90s summers full of cocaine, marijuana and drinking on Cape Cod careens into more dramatic waters.
Hunter Strawberry (Alex Roe) is a James Dean-like pot dealing townie hunk who befriends the visiting Daniel (Timothee Chalamet). Their friendship blossoms into an extremely lucrative marijuana distribution operation covering the New England area as Daniel takes Hunter’s dime bag hustle to new levels, getting in bed with mobsters of some sort. The boys, becoming men, look for love and try to hold onto innocence while procreating with the profane and inevitably shed any vestiges of boyhood on their journeys.
The looming metaphor of Hurricane Bob, a major character in the third act, is smart, truly encapsulating the emotional tone of the film. Bynum’s use of a disassociated child narrator walking us through the lore of the town and the fable unfolding before us has echoes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Bret Easton Ellis. And, the soundtrack is absolutely amazing. It’s a must-see film from this year’s South by Southwest.
“Hot Summer Nights” screens again at 6 p.m. March 17 at Zach Theatre.