Kids (1995)

13 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

The kids in the title of the film, “Kids,” refer to rebellious, aimless, pathetic, sex-crazed, drug-addicted, loudmouthed teenagers who care about nothing except sex, drugs, alcohol, skateboarding, and each other’s company. These are city kids who may seem like clean-cut kids to some people’s eyes (emphasis on the “some”), but are really some of the worst sort of young people around. And “Kids” is an ugly portrait of them.

This may seem like a documentary, but it isn’t. The social interaction and the way the camera lingers around it may have viewers mistake it to be reality. But the 19-year-old Harmony Korine, who has an ear for how inner-city children talk, wrote this film with dialogue, and the director Larry Clark directs the young actors and keeps his camera movements to frenetic quietness. But at times, it’s very disturbing, especially in the scenes involving sex.

The central character is a boy about fifteen or sixteen years old named Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick). At first, he looks like a normal kid and seems sincere and kind of nerdy. When we first see him, he’s making out with a girl in her bedroom and he talks her into having sex. At first, the girl says she’s afraid of having a baby, but Telly coaxes her by saying that with him, she wouldn’t have to worry about it and that she would love it.

It’s after that (and yes, we do see it) that we know that Telly is obsessed with deflowering young virgins. Not only that—13-year-old virgins. After he leaves his latest victim’s house, he walks the streets with his buddy Casper (Justin Pierce) and tells him about his philosophy of virgins and that he might be getting addicted to deflowering virgins. He doesn’t believe in condoms, either.

Casper is another kid who doesn’t care about much. He’s constantly stoned and drunk, and seems to envy Telly’s track record with sex. Their friends aren’t any better—together, they talk nonstop about sex, smoke weed, and drink. There are younger kids with them—they try to fit in by acting like big-time sex addicts too. But we also see just how dangerous they can be, as they beat a kid closely to death with a skateboard.

We experience a 24-hour routine day with these kids. But while all that’s going on, we get something close to a plot with a girl named Jennie (Chloe Sevigny), who is the only sympathetic character in the movie. Jennie has only had sex once, whereas her friends have experienced it multiple times and talk in as much detail about it as the boys, though they have very different opinions. Anyway, Jennie goes with a friend named Ruby (Rosario Dawson) for an HIV test. Ruby has had sex with eight guys and tests negative, but Jennie has only had sex with Telly and tests positive.

Just when you didn’t think it was possible to dislike Telly more, we find out that he is HIV positive and is spreading the virus around as he continues his one ambition in life. As for Jennie, her life collapses around her. And now, she spends the day trying to find Telly and save another girl from a fate similar to hers.

The young actors are all too real at playing these rebellious youths, particularly Leo Fitzpatrick as Telly. The hatred of Telly has to be credited to Fitzpatrick for a real tough performance. This is every parent’s nightmare.

“Kids” is not a film to enjoy, but it’s taken as a wake-up call to the world, as most critics of this movie say it is. Everything seems real, and that’s an unnerving aspect of viewing these kids. Even more unnerving is that if you watch this film and then watch a documentary about inner-city children, you won’t notice much difference. It’s hard for me to believe that “Kids” was even scripted with dialogue, but it was. And it’s hard to believe that the kids are actually young actors, but they are. “Kids” is not an enjoyable film—it’s uneasy to watch at times, but mostly, it’s a powerful, deep look at how these kids may slowly but surely be wasting their lives away.

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