Thursday, June 13, 2024

“GRIFFIN IN SUMMER”

THE STORYSummer vacation is usually the time for kids to let loose, but for fourteen-year-old Griffin Nafly, it’s time to get down to the serious business of putting on his dramatic new play: an ambitious cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and American Beauty. However, when his tween collaborators get distracted by more trivial pursuits like boys and camp, Griffin’s attention drifts toward Brad, the zoned-out handyman working at his house. Increasingly smitten and seeking a kindred spirit in Brad due to his failed career as a New York-based performance artist, Griffin finds himself embarking on an unforgettable summer.

THE CAST – Everett Blunck, Melanie Lynskey, Owen Teague, Abby Ryder Fortson & Kathryn Newton

THE TEAM – Nicholas Colia (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 90 Minutes


We are first introduced to the titular Griffin (played by Everett Blunck, a brilliant new talent) in Nicholas Colia’s “Griffin in Summer” as he performs an excerpt from his new play. Titled “Regrets of Autumn,” he describes it as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” meets “American Beauty” and follows the deterioration of a marriage. The scene he performs in front of an audience in the film’s opening minutes is a vicious argument between an alcoholic wife and her workaholic husband. She accuses him of cheating, and he accuses her of having abortions. It’s some heavy material, one you’d think would be written by a playwright with years of experience, but Griffin is 14 years old, and his stage is a school talent show.

For an unspecified number of summers, Griffin and his friends have put on a play in his basement, met with sighs from his mother (Melanie Lynskey), who often wishes he’d do “normal” kid stuff. But he’s passionate about theatre and has his eyes set on moving to New York City to chase his Broadway dreams when he turns 18. This summer’s play is his best and most ambitious yet, as he wants to perform it on a real stage, but his friends/cast aren’t as enthused. They start to give him pushback on the rehearsal schedule, as it doesn’t fit with their other summer plans like camp, or in the case of the play’s director, Kara (played by another tremendous young talent, Abby Ryder Fortson), a lakeside getaway with her new boyfriend. All his friends have other interests, and Griffin struggles to get that.

Feeling abandoned by his friends, and with his mother busy working and his father (Michael Esper) never home, the teen finds himself seeking the attention of the only other person around, Brad (Owen Teague in a role where he lets loose in a way we haven’t seen before). At first, Brad, the hot handyman with a bad boy vibe, is an annoyance to Griffin and a disturbance to his creative process, but when he stops focusing so much on his play, he begins to pay more notice to Brad – especially his physique. Distraction turns to attraction quickly, and once Griffin learns that Brad is a performance artist from New York City, the time spent together turns into a wishful fantasy for the teen – one where they run off together toward the shining lights of Broadway.

There are many movies about fleeting summer romances, but movies like “Griffin in Summer” about fleeting summer friendships can be just as heartbreaking and significant. This unlikely duo’s relationship changes them in various ways, even in how Blunck and Teague carry themselves in their roles. Brad is very blasé at the beginning of the film but becomes more animated as he gets more involved with Griffin’s play. The same goes for Griffin. Blunck often sports an unimpressed facial expression with a hint of disgust. His character isn’t easily pleased, but Brad’s presence softens him as he becomes adorably smitten. This crush Griffin has makes him realize his sexuality more than ever before, but it also creates a real mess. Griffin gets too carried away with all of these emotions he’s feeling, and this causes a rift with his friends that he’ll have to try to mend.

Speaking personally, finally realizing you’re queer by crushing on someone way older than you really sucks! Through Blunck’s performance and Colia’s screenplay, the glee one finds in the fantasy, and the pain when it’s destroyed is captured here perfectly. The music cues when Griffin’s desire is at its peak are perfect touches that add to a film that’s already so full of humor, thanks to its stellar cast. The film is so charming but also takes you back to really difficult times. Coming-of-age stories, especially those about unrequited love, will be a relatable watch for most; however, films like “Griffin in Summer” will hit so much harder for queer people who know Griffin’s joy, who have lived the fantasy and have overcome those difficult early years of self-discovery.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A coming-of-age film that feels surprisingly original. It's hilarious and charming and features fantastic performances. Everett Blunck is a brilliant new talent to keep an eye on.

THE BAD - There seems to be a link between the events of Griffin's play and his parents' deteriorating marriage, which would have been interesting to explore in more depth.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Sara Clements
Sara Clementshttps://nextbestpicture.com
Writes at Exclaim, Daily Dead, Bloody Disgusting, The Mary Sue & Digital Spy. GALECA Member.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>A coming-of-age film that feels surprisingly original. It's hilarious and charming and features fantastic performances. Everett Blunck is a brilliant new talent to keep an eye on.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>There seems to be a link between the events of Griffin's play and his parents' deteriorating marriage, which would have been interesting to explore in more depth.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"GRIFFIN IN SUMMER"