In the nineties once the indie scene broke out and directors like Steven Soderbergh and Richard Linklater perfected the chatty character piece with young adults, every director came out of the wood work with their own. Some titles like “Clerks” and “Beautiful Girls” became classics while stuff like “Mixed Signals” and “Let It Snow” fell to the wayside– for very good reason. “Summer Night” feels like a screenplay taken from 1995 that was retrofitted for a modern audience. And that’s not entirely a compliment.
It’s the last days of summer. Best friends Seth and Jameson are getting ready to perform—and party—at local rock venue The Alamo. But before the night begins, both young men comes face- to-face with serious reality checks as Seth receives life-changing news from his girlfriend Mel (Analeigh Tipton). Jameson has to choose between his on-again-off-again girlfriend Corin (Elena Kampouris) and a new girl he’s just met, the outspoken Harmony. At the show, Seth and Jameson’s friends are too caught up in their own lives to be much help, all facing crossroads in their lives including new opportunities, and new romances.
“Summer Night” feels a lot like one of those mediocre character pieces we might have seen in 1998 in response to “Dazed and Confused.” The fact that Ellar Coltrane from “Boyhood” is in the film seems like no coincidence, either. I’m not saying the writers ripped off Linklater, but you can sense they took a ton of inspiration from him as his influence is all over this film. Right down to the mid-way club scene where we watch the characters interact during music performances. You can almost sense that maybe if director Joseph Cross had the rights to more recognizable music, he’d have been booming late seventies pop tunes all over the place.
“Summer Night” isn’t a bad movie by any stretch it just doesn’t have anything remarkable or new to offer. It’s your standard episodic drama comedy with a bunch of thirty somethings discussing life, their regrets, and trying to figure out what they want to do once summer is over. Beyond that there isn’t a ton of tension or emotional awakening, despite the weight of a lot of what unfolds. Everything just kind of sputters out and the whole message of growing up gets lost in the endless dialogue and numerous sub-plots. “Summer Night” has a very good cast and a great setting, it just doesn’t re-invent the formula at all as middling, merely serviceable indie fare.
At least there’s Victoria Justice. Seriously, I’d pay money to watch her read the phone book for three hours.
Now in Limited Release and on VOD.