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The Kings of Summer

Like the fading of day into twilight, the ephemeral nature of youth is deftly captured in The Kings of Summer. The coming-of-age film is poignant and comical, sitting squarely on that threshold, focusing on the time when a teen is part boy, part man and all adolescent. That transitional period is encompassed in a pivotal summer.

Fourteen-year-old Joe has been chafing at the gruff intrusions of his tough father, Frank, ever since his mother died and his older sister Heather moved in with her boyfriend. Joe's best friend Patrick has his own parental issues. An only child, his nerdy parents hover constantly, smothering him with their meddling.

Joe is eager to escape life, so he convinces Patrick to run away to a clearing in the woods. It is there they can build a homestead, Joe insists, and embark on becoming men. The pair sneaks tools from their parents' garages and build a large shack, faking their disappearance and intending to live their summer free from intrusion.

They are joined by their odd, diminutive classmate, Biaggio. Neither knows how this kid got involved in their plans — he just appeared one day — but Joe is afraid of what Biaggio might do if they rebuff him.

The concept of a household in the great outdoors managed by three teen boys is rife with humorous possibilities. Their adventure combines weird domesticity with awkward survivalist attempts. Joe has had a crush on Kelly (Erin Moriarty) and decides their woodsy idyll needs a female touch. But when Kelly comes to visit, things start to unravel.

While the premise sounds outlandish, the concerns are authentic: becoming independent, struggling to cope with flawed parents, allowing a childhood friendship to take new turns and navigating the complicated world of romance. No huge realizations occur, just small but significant changes. That's why this quirky story captivates.

The story is in the tradition of Stand by Me, with the offbeat edge of Moonrise Kingdom, yet it's not derivative. It's a fresh, whimsical take on adolescent angst. No shot, scene or line of dialogue is superfluous in this whimsical, well-acted comedy.

Fourteen is a tricky age to convey, but director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and writer Chris Galletta nail it, with wonderful absurdist humor.

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The Kings of Summer

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