Rob Edelman: Summer Movies And More
The summer movie season has arrived in force. JURASSIC WORLD, a movie which is the definition of cotton candy hot weather escapism, earned a whopping $200-million in U.S. theaters during its opening weekend. Add to this the $300-million the film earned overseas, and JURASSIC WORLD took in over a half-billion dollars during its first days in release. And if you bought a ticket, you certainly got what you paid for: special effects, special effects, and more special effects, all of which are calculated to thrill the masses.
On the other hand, TOMORROWLAND, one more high-profile, highly-anticipated wannabe blockbuster, has not fared as well at the box office. But this is nothing to grieve over. As its story unfolds, TOMORROWLAND seems to be making a statement about the future, and about how it will belong to the young. No problem there... But I found its scenario to be clunky, and eminently forgettable.
However, what really bothered me about TOMORROWLAND was that it is calculated to play into the desires of the young audience it so brazenly craves. One of the central characters is a teenage girl, Casey Newton, played by Britt Robertson. If you analyze her character you come away with the feeling that Casey may be well-intentioned, but she also is self-absorbed to the nth degree. The message here-- that it is perfectly okay to be self-absorbed-- is not the message that young people should be embracing at this point in time, or at any point in time.
If you are looking for a film about teens and their issues that is more profound, and more authentic, one film that is well-worth discovering is titled KNOW HOW. From a point of view of special effects and star power, KNOW HOW, which recently was released to home entertainment, is the polar opposite of TOMORROWLAND. But I found KNOW HOW to be far more engrossing.
This low-budget drama-with-music tells the stories of various urban youths and the manner in which they respond to the crises in their lives, which include everything from familial abuse to drug abuse, homelessness to the seemingly impossible task of graduating high school. KNOW HOW, which is scripted and performed by young people who are the products of the foster care system in New York City, does not excuse the bad behavior of some of these characters. What is happening here is that it explains the reasons why this behavior occurs.
Granted, on occasion the film is rough around the edges, but KNOW HOW is at its best ambitious, involving, and even heartbreaking. Some of the lines in the film are the stuff of poetry. Some directly relate to those New Yorkers whose lives are cloaked in poverty. “For all the money in this city and all them people who got more money than they need, man, we sittin’ here hungry,” is one such sentiment. Another is: “This city is a mass of people, all connected by subways and dreams.”
On the subject of the future, one character notes: “If I wanted to be a drug dealer tomorrow, I could. But I can’t be a doctor tomorrow.” On the subject of hope, one character observes: “When you’re down, it’s hard to look up.” Yes indeed, KNOW HOW is far more satisfying, and far more memorable, than TOMORROWLAND or JURASSIC WORLD.
Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.
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