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In the general run of 20-something comedy dramas Phil Price's Summer is not at all a bad show. The modest Canadian production mostly shows on cable television but is a good vehicle for some promising new actors, many of whom have managed to keep active on both TV and the screen. Three college grads spend their summer in the usual non-productive pursuits, while the specter of responsibility nags at them to grow up; it's an old story and one hard to ruin. Summer is no dynamo of great writing or direction but it can boast some fresh faces and endearing characters.
I won't make a lot of generalizations about "teen/young adult/coming of age/rowdy-rowdy" movies because I've more or less avoided them. The samples I've seen haven't shown much improvement over the last twenty years. But when a title is recommended to me as having something to say, or starring bright young actors, I've taken some nibbles and been pleasantly surprised. Waydowntown from Canada and Late Night Shopping from the U.K. were very special surprises. Summer isn't as original or as polished as either but it shares with them a fondness for its (ultimately) very likeable characters.
What's weak about Summer is the writing when the young hipsters are in "cool" mode. They stride into the public pool area in slow motion to music, wearing sunglasses and carrying their matching briefcases. They talk strictly Cool-speak, the kind of slick dialogue created only by clever writers trying too hard to impress. They talk trash a lot and generally do their best to give an impression of aloof disdain to all around them.
Although Summer has no nudity, everyone is sexually active and talking about it. Miller and Ella are a confirmed couple doing mattress gymnastics and Stefanie openly admits that she slept with a guy because he's good looking, a great dancer and seems to be "going places" as an actor. Beth practically throws herself at Charlie; he has to be standoffish just to be fair.
The screenwriters basically invent a young adult paradise -- although Miller does work the other always have plenty of money for immediate expenses. Charlie has the full use of a house as a summer headquarters. No parents are in sight, not a one. Miller worries about being labeled a slacker even though his immediate goal seems to be becoming one. Hainsworth and Price's writing references a heavy dose of John Hughes movies. Since the last Brat Pack comedies came out seventeen years ago, they by all reason shouldn't be on the minds of early 20's kids. Some aspects of the film are just lazy. A lifeguard character and an "outsider" boyfriend are intolerable jerks openly derided by our Cool Cats. Director Price lets them slide into bad stereotype clowns, hurting this section of the picture.
When the plot lines finally get down to more serious matters, Summer improves mightily. Charlie shows uncommon concern for his friends' emotional crises and patience when dealing with Beth's worship. Stefanie's demoralizing run-ins with her rotten show-biz "friends" sober her up to the need for more dependable associates, like puppy-dog cute singer Shane Murphy. Best of all is Miller and Ella's relationship meltdown, which comes about in a series of nicely handled scenes, acting and direction. The actress playing Ella is Amy Sloan; she's one of the more memorable faces in the show, having played Howard Hughes' mother in the prologue to Martin Scorsese's The Aviator.
Summer wraps up with not one but two gimmicky public "let's make up and kiss" scenes that work well enough in spite of their obviousness. The show has lots of music and production values and direction a bit on the weak side, but the personalities make it a worthwhile attraction.
Ardustry's DVD of Summer is a non-enhanced 1:66 matted flat transfer of a filmed show (the credits indicate this) but the quality of the encoding is such that it sometimes looks like a cheap video shoot. On a large monitor the quality goes way down, so this is not a disc to see in a projection situation. Although there's a variety of lively music, the mix is such that some secondary characters, especially the actress playing Miller's old TA, are hard to understand. And there are no subtitles, trailers, or any other extras.
Summer is a prime source for casting agents to discover four or five really talented Canadian (?) actors at work ... iin a reasonable, undemanding light comedy.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Summer rates:
Video: Fair +
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 16, 2006