Kaboom is a celluloid pastry, an instrument of candor, a bundle of youthful fun that inspires even the more soporific among us (I’m looking at you, elderly couple next to me who came to the wrong film and gladly stayed through to the end). In strongly repudiating all the noise over how The Social Network was “emblematic of its time and place,” I stand with Kaboom as something more attuned to the spirit and tonality of Generation Y.
Gregg Araki (The Living End, Smiley Face) reigns unchallenged as the most unique voice of New Queer Cinema with his newest work, which tackles apocalyptic fun and other-worldly affairs with the same approach it takes towards sexual liberation and eventual weathering thereof. In immersions through his subconscious, Smith (Thomas Dekker) is faced with acquaintances and strangers throughout his dreams as he walks through misty hallways towards the same door, a subtle reminder of earth-shattering revelations to come. In his conscious life, he is an 18-year old art student who bears no allegiance to any one particular sexual orientation and is instead haunted by trysts with a vivacious party girl named London and the constant tension brought upon by his roommate, with whom Smith is enamored. Meanwhile, his BFF Stella (a brilliant Haley Bennett) enters into a sex-ridden, emotionless liaison with an exotic student on campus who she later tries to fend off unsuccessfully and, as luck would have it, is of a supernatural persuasion. And this, dear reader, is as far as I can go for your sake and that of audiences who have yet to experience Kaboom and the genius of its creator. Know that sex and spontaneity (as fun a pairing as PB&J) work in Kaboom in tandem with a generation without direction joined in hunger for the kind of unadulterated and fearless social expression that Zuckerberg would blow his load for.
Its approach to Generation Y can be felt in the feedback from the film’s gorgeous shoegaze soundtrack, feedback that lingers and becomes ethereal and inviting to escape, as though reliving through the buzz-killing Bush years. Working parallel with the horny narrative, the soundtrack acts as a tricolor-lens through which the film is watched, enhancing the film’s message of a youth revolution standing strong with its madness. Moreover, the performances by the two lead protagonists challenge notions of not only sexual orientation and identification, but also those of a standardized happy-sad binary state for young characters. Smith’s apathy towards sexual identification is a middle finger to modern social strata, while Stella’s bittersweet approach to sexual liaisons (a strict social contract between organs) avoids the clichés put forth by the modern teen/college flick of sentimental attachment, and therefore weakness.
The plot of Kaboom begs to be revealed but, above all that, the experience of the film begs to be lived. More than a runaway black comedy (and festival circuit darling, winner of the first Queer Lion at Venice) the film’s inclusive approach to its audience is akin to an inspirational sermon. Yes, the protagonists are highly sexually active college students. Yes, the film’s soundtrack embodies the escapism and chill mode of Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. Yes, it involves an unpredictable and arguably youthful plot. So what? Films like Kaboom deserve to be watched in an audience for its inviting participatory aspects, and by oneself, with its highly conversational and reflective take on an entire generation. Araki is a master of his craft. Kaboom is a revelation, a revolution and, dare I say, “absolutely emblematic” of displaced youth in the United States without the bullshit of its commercialization.