|Ken Park (***)
review by Jon
Ken Park goes skating in the local hot spot like he always
did. This time, he sits down on one of the concrete hills,
pulls a video camera and a gun out of his backpack and shoots
himself. Shawn is having an affair with his girlfriend’s
mother. Peaches has a boyfriend, a wild side, and an ultra-religious,
overprotective widowed father. Claude’s father (who thinks
skateboarding will turn his son gay, if it hasn’t already)
beats him while his apathetic, pregnant mother sits there.
Tate lives with his board game playing grandparents who don’t
respect his privacy or his psychotic artistic vision.
“Ken Park” is not so much the story of the title
character, but rather about the different paths kids of his
clique take when dealing with life. His suicide isn’t
as much a factor as the opening would have you believe. It’s
not mentioned in the film, and it doesn’t need to be.
These young teenagers have their own struggles and inner demons
to worry about. There’s a part of me that doesn’t
like that the stories don’t intertwine. These people
are friends, but we only see them interact with each other
in one long, graphic scene. Surprisingly, though, that scene
gives the movie a definitive point. And so the other part of
me is glad they don’t mix. It helps build the running
metaphor and helps avoid ruining some of the more delicately
constructed relationship dynamics we see.
Once again, director Larry Clark and writer Harmony Korine
(“Kids”) team up to present us with an unadulterated
look at various facets of today’s youth that might otherwise
go unrecognized, unnoticed, or unknown. The brutal visuals
by cinematographer and co-director Edward Lachman (“Far
From Heaven”) are underscored with a typical family melodrama
look and feel. There is a lot of disturbing imagery shown here
and there’s a lot of beauty to be found as well. None
of it seems all too out of reach.
The young, inexperienced cast does an amazing job. With the
exception of Tate, all the main young characters are first
time actors picked from the streets of the community they’re
embodying. Their delivery and ability to connect with the written
word is remarkable and just as good as a professional would
or could do. I think what amazes me the most is the composure
and comfort shown when involving themselves in the pornographic
scenes (which serve a well-meaning purpose and don’t
stand out as much as you might imagine they would).
Despite all my elementary, psychoanalytical musings, I have
to say that the movie isn’t perfect and will cause a
lot of unrest within the audience (and not just because of
the visual element). I was left uneasy with the way the story
was told. Even if after thinking about it more, I rationalized
any problems, the appearance of flaws still exists. Some of
it seems overly sensationalistic and purposefully in-your-face.
But behind the boundary push are several levels of meaning.
You can create your own meanings and interpretations from the
film and many people can and will walk away from it satisfied
for a variety of reasons. I myself took the film to be good
and slightly groundbreaking, but by no means outstanding.
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