By Lime Blake
Kids. Oh boy. Kids (1995, Independent Films; dir. Larry Clark) is a kind of movie that I like to equate to being a war veteran. You go in, oblivious of what to expect, instead thinking, “Oh, it can’t be so bad; people just like to blow things way out of proportion.” And when you come away from the film, you’re a different person — you find yourself questioning yourself and all you stand for — and eventually you find yourself huddled in the shower, rocking back and forth while the raining cold water encompasses your body, sobbing uncontrollably because the nightmares just won’t go away, and nobody understands what you’ve experienced except for those quiet ones who lived it too.
In a simple, back-of-the-DVD-case sort of summary, Kids is a movie about New York teenagers in 1995, how their already pretty screwed up lives can get worse, and how things can change so easily, but at the same time stay exactly the same — all in the span of 24 hours.
Here’s the graphic summary:
Kids is about an irresponsible little goomba named Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), who thinks he can escape the rampant spread of AIDS in New York City by strictly having unprotected sex with virgins (a.k.a. anybody under the age of 14). Meanwhile, two girls named Ruby and Jennie (Rosario Dawson and Chloe Sevigny) head over to the nearest clinic to get the results of their HIV/AIDS tests. Ruby’s results come back clean, even though she’s done everything under the sun at least six-and-a-half times — while Jennie’s results are positive, even though she’s only had sex once — with Telly.
The movie is centered around Telly and his friend Casper (Justin Pierce) getting high with their friends, talking about sex, and wanting to unceremoniously deflower a 13-year-old girl named Darcy (Yakira Peguero), while Jennie journeys the city in order to find Telly before he ruins the lives of more innocent girls.
I have a pretty strong tolerance for the macabre, but anything pertaining with the destruction of youth and innocence … that stuff gets under my skin real fast. Especially when the movie’s opening scene is of a 15-year-old boy seducing a 12-year-old girl, all because he’s too lazy/stupid/wigger to go buy condoms and get together with someone his own age.
Director Larry Clark was adamant about using “real” teenagers with very little acting experience to be featured in the movie, and I find it interesting that of the movie’s entirety, very little of it is actually scripted. Many of the conversations in Kids are genuine, and that does play a crucial role in the film’s accurate portrayal of teenagers in the mid-1990s.
But at the same time, I’m not sure if Kids would have been as effective of a film if it was watered down. I mean, I do have a hard time calling it “a good movie”, but it is a powerful movie that does raise awareness of realistic issues among the youth of yesteryear that are still very much prevalent with the youth of today.
I think I understand what Larry Clark and screenwriter Harmony Korine were trying to do. They were providing an insight into a world that adults otherwise scoff at and shrug off, when there is a definite need to instead pay attention. Teenagers are rightful human beings too, and if they don’t have the guidance and support many of them desire, they’re going to find it elsewhere — in most cases, succumbing to a life of excess and self-destruction.
Though while Kids does its job to educate (and scare), it also slips up and makes the average viewer feel like they need a cold shower and some hard liquor after. And while that may be a good thing, especially since the movie is filmed without much of a script and looks similar to a documentary, I honestly think it could have been done better, and much more effectively. Although in saying that — I don’t really know how.
However, I do have to commend Larry Clark for making a movie like this. Although, he does run the risk of two potential polar reactions as a consequence to watching Kids: disturbing the audience because they are genuinely affected by the message only to immediately subscribe to 18 years’ worth of Today’s Parent — or disturbing the audience because they’re disgusted by the subject matter and think that Clark is a sick psychopath for making borderline child pornography.
In the end though, Kids is an important film. It’s just not a good film. Like Cannibal Holocaust, I wholeheartedly believe this film should be shown in high schools. How effective it would be, I’m not sure — but it would at least get brain-gears churning. Regardless of the film’s taboo nature and controversy, Kids does what it’s supposed to do — and that’s all anybody can ask of a work of artistic entertainment.