Why ‘The Last Summer’ Doesn’t Deserve a Review
Yes I am aware of the irony at play here, since I am refusing to give it a review, yet writing about the movie on the site gives it a platform. I am also aware that there are more horrific movies drifting about, one of them I recently reviewed (check out that review here), but this post isn’t about those movies. This post is a rant on how Netflix could read the script for The Last Summer and hear the concept and be like: “This is a teen movie we want to root for.”
It is Not a Teen Movie
Firstly, none of the characters look like teens. The guys are all stacked with abs, the girls flaunt their figures in bathing suits, you know, since it’s summer. Only the stereotyped nerds are exempt from this body type, since nerds must look like nerds. Oh, and there is the one girl who is not as pretty as the rest, who gets stuck with being the babysitter and no-college-acceptance narrative. We have couples (Mason and Erin) breaking up because college awaits, and shacking up immediately with someone else. Is this reality? Instead of allowing them to explore their state of single-hood, we see that they are unable to function outside of a relationship.
Then we get to the main couple, who are so boringly vanilla I would rather watch paint dry than witness their bland love story. Phoebe’s (Maia Mitchell) so-called film, which is about teenagers and their transition towards college and adult life, doesn’t say anything (much like this movie). It is hard not to roll my eyes when Griffin (K.J. Apa) praises the film. And of course, someone needs to be saddled with the art versus practicality narrative, which is given to Griffin since he and Phoebe connect through their Art. It feels like this some version of K.J Apa’s character on Riverdale, who also has the whole ‘I want to be a musician’ narrative.
The movie has such a host of likable actors, which it wastes. Tyler Posey’s character falls into Erin’s lap while trying to catch a baseball (he is a ball player), after which he proceeds to charm and woo her. We are so won over by how down to earth he is, before he becomes a douche in a split second. As I sat there with my brother watching this (whom I apologize to for having to watch this travesty of a movie with me), both of us literally predicted that he would be cheating on her. All he has for us is: “It’s complicated.” Wow, okay thanks for the illumination. Of course I am not saying relationships are always cut and dry, and things can get complicated when an ex walks back in, but this is obviously a plot-line just so Erin can end up with Mason again.
In Comparison to Can’t Hardly Wait
Sitting there cringing and bored out of my mind, I realized this movie was trying to be a current version of 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait. The problem here is that there’s nothing current about this portrayal. I could place this narrative against a 90’s backdrop and literally nothing would have to change. The only part that would need to be left behind would be the brief scene of texting between Griffin and Phoebe, with the film trying to showcase the difficulty we face having to navigate technology in relationships. But like I said, it is brief and doesn’t really do much anyway. We mostly get the same stereotyped characters and the same exact portrayal of high school life.
Can’t Hardly Wait works because it dismantles the stereotypes. A jock can bond with a nerd, a nerd can be popular, the sweet nice guy doesn’t finish last because he gets the gorgeous popular girl. In The Last Summer, we see the enforcement of stereotypes. Nerds can only be accepted if they are in costume pretending to be someone they are not. Also, how are these smart working women perfectly fine with being lied to by these high school boys? They lie and sleep with them, and it’s all giggles and laughs.
The ditzy popular girl remains sheltered and entitled, the fat boy turned hunk finally loses his virginity by sleeping with an older woman. Are our identities so shallow, that being a virgin is so stigmatized, that he is on a mission to lose it before the summer is over? Seth Green’s character in Can’t Hardly Wait had the same motivation going into the last party of their high school lives, but ultimately achieves a more satisfying conclusion when he loses it to his former best friend.
There is such relatability to Can’t Hardly Wait, because as one chapter of our lives come to a close, we wonder if we should take risks or make a leap of faith. Should I go back and try to take the path not traveled? Should I tell her how I feel before life takes us on separate paths? The Last Summer has none of that. It is a soulless movie that gives nothing to us audience members and has the gall to label itself a teen movie. It makes me angry to think that these people were given a chance to share their vision on a platform like Netflix, and this is what we get. You can’t just give us hot people to ogle over; there is more to moviemaking than that, and sadly, Netflix doesn’t seem to care. Maybe Steven Spielberg was right after all about Netflix films.
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