Filmmaker Gregg Araki has been exploring that side of youth culture for years, coining the term Doom Generation as the title of his 1995 film. Almost all of Araki's films are full of young people who party and fool around, and though the filmmaker has aged, the kids in his movies haven't.
His new one, Kaboom—playing for one week starting Friday, Feb. 25, at Hillcrest Cinemas—is a throwback to the three films that made up his Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, except that in Kaboom, the apocalypse may actually be nigh. The movie is set at UCSD, believe it or not (though I don't think it was shot there), and features a cast of good-looking, sexually voracious people whose youthful angst is starting to take a serious toll.
Thomas Dekker is Smith, a fairly typical, mostly gay college kid studying film. I say “mostly” because he occasionally sleeps with women even though he constantly fantasizes about his straight surfer roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) and because, in Kaboom, everyone is sexually ambiguous. Having a label of gay or straight barely applies, because everyone is busy getting busy with everyone else.
But Smith's problems aren't about whom he's sleeping with—they're about the two women he's never met who appear in a dream that keeps recurring as he nears his 19th birthday. Sure, that's weird, but what's truly weird is meeting both of them when his best friend Stella (Haley Bennett) drags him to a party. And he can't process it, because he's tripping balls.
Stella immediately hooks up with one of them, Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida), and the other, a red-headed girl (Nicole LaLiberte), vomits all over Smith's shoes, sending him to the bathroom. That's where he meets London (Juno Temple), a gorgeous girl whom he immediately sleeps with (she has a British accent—what choice does he have?), and after she sends him on his way, he staggers home and runs smack into what seems like a full-blown
conspiracy involving murder, men in animal masks and secrets about the
father he never knew.
That's just the first 30 minutes. The mystery Araki goes on to explore is intriguing and trashy, glutted with casual sex, three-ways, IMs, texting, cults and sorcery (really). Araki can be his own worst enemy; though he's got great leads in Dekker, Bennett and Temple, he blows his wad on building the suspense and focuses on who's going down on whom instead of what's going down in the big picture. And when you do get a sense of the actual story, it comes so fast and furious and is so outlandish that it's tough to take the rest of the film seriously.
That said, there are some interesting ideas in Kaboom that may largely go unnoticed. The idea that everyone seems willing to get with whomever they want, regardless of gender, has potential to offend the over-30 set, but it's actually a liberating view of today's younger people and was deemed interesting enough to earn Araki the first-ever Queer Palm honor at Cannes last year.
And Araki's frenetic and somewhat incoherent style, which essentially explains away the entire story in the film's final minutes, masks some of its insight.
Even though the characters in Kaboom may not conform to a moral standard held by the one-time doom generations, they won't be the end of the world. If and when the human race self-destructs, it will be brought about by people who have grown up, tuned out and taken charge. Kids today, they aren't scary. Grown-ups? That's who you have to watch out for.