Summer Night (Joseph Cross, 2019) 2½ out of 4 stars.
An enjoyable enough, if rambling and slight, study of twentysomething ennui, director Joseph Cross’ Summer Night follows a group of thirteen friends over the course of one night (as per the movie’s poster) while they hang out, drink, play music and pursue and repair connections, romantic and otherwise. Featuring an appealing cast and occasionally interesting dialogue (courtesy of screenwriter Jordan Jolliff), the film breaks no new ground in its examination of the wayward journey of life, yet still mostly holds our interest throughout. Though there are a number of female characters, Summer Night nevertheless feels very male in its orientation, the women primarily serving to help the men figure out their priorities. It’s a true film intimiste par excellence, straight out of the French cinematic tradition, even if shot in the state of Georgia.
The movie begins with two bro-ish best friends (the names all blend together) on their way back from a pleasant nature outing. Suddenly, one of them gets a text from his girlfriend. She’s pregnant, as we’ll soon learn (easy to see it coming), and he, predictably, handles the news poorly. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang is getting ready to go out that night to the Alamo, a bar/performance space where many of them will showcase their bands, some of which – the bluegrass one, in particular – are quite good. The alcohol flows, as does the flirtation (for some) and misery (for others). What crises there are eventually (sort of) dealt with, and we close out the affair in the warm embrace of camaraderie that the previous 90 minutes have built up. Not much happens, but quite a lot takes place. I could think of worse ways to spend an evening.
Among the players, the standouts, for me, were Ella Hunt (Anna and the Apocalypse), Victoria Justice (The Outcasts) and Callan McAuliffe (Kite). Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood) is also strong, though somehow, at just 24, he looks almost a generation older than the rest. Since Bill Milner (The Lodgers), by contrast, looks 12, it’s hard to imagine the two of them palling around (much less Milner being allowed in a bar). That said, the actors work well together, relaxed and perfectly at home within the shaggy frames of the story. If what you’re looking for is a casual narrative spot in which to chill, Summer Night could be it. Play it safe, though, and drive sober.