Tuesday 5 December 2017

Film: 'Beach Rats'

Largely unconvincing story of unemployed New York teenager (Harris Dickinson), one of a gang with another three similar youths, hanging around the beach and funfair looking for girls and smoking weed, getting by through pick-pocketing, and the occasional 'kindness' of strangers - only this particular young guy is leading a double life, at night hooking up on his p.c. with older men (not elderly) on gay websites for online 'chatting' and occasional meet-ups for quick sex. He hangs onto a girl who'd picked him up, thinking him sexy (which I couldn't see at all, though we'll let that pass - 'Beauty in the eye of.....' etc) and he indulges in a hot-cold relationship with her, while leading this private double life, even taking her home to stay overnight in full view of his quietly 'understanding' and protective mother (Kate Hodge) who doesn't approve of his male friends, and his stroppy little sister who's also engaged in a physical relationship. 
After maintaining this deception to his mates for much of the film, he opens up to them and tells them what he's been doing. Instead of asserting their 'macho' credentials by seeing who could outdo the others in homophobic put-downs, as I'd have expected to happen, their reaction is unbelievably relaxed about it, displaying little more than mild amusement - never mind that up till then he'd been like the rest of them, wanting "women, women, women!" He explains his conduct by saying that this is how he manages to obtain a reliable source of weed, and he'll do what it takes to get it, which they accept.
I can't deny that the film captures well the double-life that a lot of us have gone through to maintain a veneer of 'respectability' with our peers and equals by talking about relationships with girls either completely fictitious or, if the girls existed at all, inwardly praying that they weren't tracked down and interrogated so as to reveal the lie we had spun of a 'relationship'. I know it well, I've been there - growing up at a time when all gay acts were criminal, even in private, when as little as a misjudged touch on a knee could result in the loss of one's job, or much, much worse. But as far as this gang of four are concerned their only constraint is, as far as I could tell, their own opinions of each other - and, of course, there was no need for Dickinson's character to lie about the real person he's seeing.
Throughout the film I was expecting a sudden burst of violence to break out, and to that extent it did keep me tensed up.

This is director Eliza Hittman's only second feature film. She's still young and I'm assuming that this is one of the misfires that she'll encounter on her way to establishing her reputation as someone to be reckoned with - though it won't be with this...............4.


  1. This film is certainly one that should be viewed a second time. I came out of the theater wondering what were those glowing reviews from the critics all about?

    The movie is now available on VOD and I watched it again and after giving it a lot of thought, my perspective has changed. Harris Dickinson, a beautiful guy, did a great job portraying a complex character in a very realistic story. I've heard criticism about the ending, but I think it fit and left you wondering.

  2. Well, that was certainly my frame of mind when making my exit, Paul. Can't say I'm exactly 'eager' to watch it again, though I'll accept your assurance that it gains on repeated viewing. It's had generally good reviews here, though, like you, and now one day later, I do ask myself whether I've seen the same film as those critics have. I'm trying to be careful not to let my non-appreciation of Dickinson get in the way of a fair judgment of the film entire, but even if I'd fancied the lead it'd still have left me wanting more.
    If it comes on TV I'll only be watching it again if I forget what I thought about it, though once it clicks I don't think there'll be much enthusiasm to watch it right through again.

  3. Ray,
    Sounds like a film I would be interested in but so often i’ve Been disappointed in these gay themed films. They are almost always cheaply made with actors I find neather sexually appealing or realistic portrayal of real gay peopke. Just last night when I was talking to my Canadian friend Pat on FaceTime, I posited to him what a great movie our meeting and life now would be. I’m serious. Who would ever think that a movie about two old gay men would be sexy and interesting? I know I would love to see a realistic movie about that subject but it will never happen. Instead there will continue to be made cheaply made gay movies like this with the usual stereotypes portrayed by actors who we care nothing about. Idon’t Know why it is so hard to make a good gay themed movie but there it is. The dreck continues to be dumped out onto a market that is willing to accept anything gay.

    1. This one is a film far removed from my own experience, Ron, but even so I felt that that alone shouldn't have made it as difficult to relate to as I found it. It would be unfair to say that because it was directed by a woman, whether gay or not, could be part of the problem I had in connecting, but for me something was going on that made it feel unreal. The lack of physical appeal to me of the main character (still only a teenager anyway!) only compounded my difficulties. But having said that it has been generally well received here and for that reason alone ought to be given a chance.

      Yes, films about two older gay men is as rare as hens' teeth, though we did have a good one last year (which name escapes me for the moment). I do envy you and Pat finding each other at this advanced stage of your lives, and it would indeed make a good, heart-warming feature, as well as giving hope to those of very mature years like me (and I can't be the only one) who are still awaiting their first really deep relationship.