Kids: A Review of Upturned Stomachs and Cold Showers

Last night I went through my DVD collection and watched Another Day in Paradise, a movie starring Vincent Kartheiser and co-starring James Woods about four people who pretend to be a family of traveling tourists, while in reality, are professional crooks. Hands down, it is a fantastic film, and I recommend it to any one who is into the Indy film scene, or just loves a good criminal romper-stomper.

A great movie.

The movie was directed by Larry Clark — a filmmaker I’ve never heard of before, although on the cover, it stated he directed another movie that I did hear about a long time ago (but knew nothing about), called Kids. Curious about this, as well as other Larry Clark films, I wandered over to Wikipedia  — which to my dismay (and a good friend confirming it), told me that Clark’s other films are pretty messed up. Like, trying-to-push-the-envelope-to-make-us-think-but-instead-making-us-cringe-and-feel-very-uncomfortable messed up.

Kids is the first of many of these cold shower-inducing films.

A not-so-great movie.

In a simple, back-of-the-DVD-case sort of summary, Kids is a movie about New York teenagers in 1995, how their already pretty screwed up lives can get worse, and how things can change so easily, but at the same time stay exactly the same — all in the span of twenty-four hours.

Here’s the graphic summary.

Kids is about an irresponsible little goomba named Telly, who thinks he can escape the rampant fear of AIDS and STDs in general by strictly having sex with virgins. Meanwhile, two girls in Telly’s little circle of shit-heads head over to the nearest clinic to get the results of their HIV/AIDS test. One girl (played by Rosario Dawson), who’s had unprotected sex several times with several different guys comes back negative — while the other girl named Jennie (played by Chloe Sevigny), who’s only had sex with one guy — Telly — comes back positive.

The movie is centered around Telly and his friend Casper getting high with their friends, talking about sex, and wanting to unceremoniously deflower a thirteen year old girl named Darcy, while Jennie wanders around New York trying to find Telly and warn him of what he’s done to her and stop him before he unwittingly destroys the lives of anyone else.

12/f/ny asl?

Honestly, very few things disturb me.

I sat through The Passion of the Christ without looking away once. Not because I myself am a devout Catholic, but because I was too busy laughing at Mel Gibson trying to pathetically scare people into their faith and accept Christ as their savior with the use of shock value and emotional abuse/guilt (which actually worked — well — until The DaVinci Code came out, anyway) … Not to mention I thought The Exorcist should have been labeled as “Comedy” instead of “Horror”, and seriously believe Cannibal Holocaust is a brilliant and important film that should be shown in high schools.

…But anything that has to do with destroying youth and innocence (not to mention that I believe sexuality is sacred between two people — and only two people — and should never be exploited) … that stuff gets under my skin. Especially when the opening scene of a movie is a fifteen year old boy seducing a twelve year old girl for his own benefit, all because he’s too lazy/stupid/wigger to go buy condoms and get together with someone his age.

I watched Kids through its entirety. And yeah, there were a couple parts that bothered me. But I think the film would have had a worse blow to me if the kids portrayed in it didn’t walk around like they deserved having a cinder block randomly fall on their heads. And I realize that’s an awful thing to say, but … I really did have a hard time trying to feel sorry for most of these characters. I felt more for the victims of Telly and Casper’s chronic retardation than I did for them and their equally moronic druggie friends. But that was probably the point.

“Hey guys, does not having HIV mean I get an Oscar?”

Throughout the movie there are several scenes of prolific drug use by kids of all ages (there’s a party scene near the end where a group of black kids who look to be around eight or ten sit around sharing a joint while talking about their history of drug use).

I don’t like to spoil movies for people who are interested, but watching Kids is the equivalent of being repeatedly punched in the stomach with no breaks, and the ending left me wanting to smother myself with a pillow after the credits. But, in saying that, the film truly is an accurate depiction of unsupervised, uneducated, bored-out-of-their-minds teenagers of the mid-90s.

I understand what Larry Clark and the screenwriter, Harmony Korine, were trying to do. They were trying to give idiot parents (and I say “idiot” politely) an inside look into the lives of teenagers who were never introduced to the Easy Bake Oven and Super Nintendo, and were instead left with the TV as their baby-sitter. And yeah, while Kids does its job to educate (and scare), it also slips up and makes the average viewer feel like they need a cold shower and some hard liquor after. And while that may be a good thing, especially since the movie is filmed without much of a script and looks like a documentary, I honestly think it could have been done better, and much more effectively.

“Hey Telly, do you think maybe we’re the cause of our generation’s demise?”
“Who cares? Pass the mickey.”

I’m not saying the movie should be sterilized — I just think it should have gone through a couple more drafts, and I think Clark just could have done a better job. If the movie was trimmed to seem less raw, it would lose its message of a harsh and truthful reality. I think Kids, like Cannibal Holocaust, should be shown in high schools. How effective it would be, I’m not sure — but it would at least get brain-gears churning, I think.

On the very same coin, Kids should be shown to parents before they decide maybe it’s best if their kids “learn on their own” and completely (and irresponsibly) remove themselves from their lives. Maybe that would keep each coming generation from getting more and more stupid and self-centred. That’s just my own observation and opinion though.

Kids is an important film. It’s just not a good film. I realize I haven’t gone into too much detail as to why the movie is a train wreck, but I’m not entirely sure I’m able to put my finger on the exact technicalities of what’s wrong with the movie, other than its overall presentation. Regardless of the taboo nature and controversy, the movie does what it’s supposed to. And I kind of have to commend Clark for making a movie like this, even though I think he could have done a better job, because there’s the potential of two completely polar reactions: disturbing the audience because they’re genuinely affected by the message only to immediately subscribe to eighteen years’ worth of Good Parenting Magazine, or disturbing the audience because they’re disgusted by the subject matter and think Clark is a sick psycho for making borderline child pornography.

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