Brooklyn, Entertainment, Film, Opinion, Red Hook Summer, Review, Reviews, Spike Lee -

'Red Hook Summer' suggests Spike Lee's star may be fading

Brooklyn, Entertainment, Film, Opinion, Red Hook Summer, Review, Reviews, Spike Lee -

'Red Hook Summer' suggests Spike Lee's star may be fading

“What happened to your Christian name?” asks a nonplussed Bishop Enoch Rouse of his smart-mouthed grandson, Flik Royale.

“I rented it out on Facebook,” the youngster retorts.

Thus are both grandfather and the audience introduced for the first time to the protagonist of Red Hook Summer, Spike Lee’s latest joint. If viewers have never seen a black, private-schooled, teenaged Vegan from Atlanta, there’s a first time for everything: Flik’s bespoke character appears designed to disabuse all stereotypes. Visiting his uber-pious grandfather for the first time ever, Flik is a portrait of adolescent angst. He’s an outsider with a steely self-confidence, but struggles to understand the Motley Crew of denizens in his grandfather’s housing project, all but ensures he rubs everybody the wrong way. As any tech-savvy and smart-mouthed kid might, he carries a tablet device (an “iPad TWO”, as Flik pointedly corrects everyone who asks) to chronicle the world around him.

Take one alienated teen, throw in a sassy potential love interest and mix in the neighborhood bully, and you have what appears to be a fairly bathetic coming-of-age yarn about love, secrets and life’s lessons. Yet history teaches us that in Spike Lee’s world, nothing is quite what it seems on the surface, and this is especially true with Red Hook Summer. As ever, the famously irascible eminence grise of black cinema has a parable to preach at you — although surprisingly enough, this one’s not about racism.


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Wait, one might ask, what’s a Spike Lee Joint without tons of racial moralizing? As it happens, not a whole lot. Red Hook Summer recalls Lee’s earlier movies, and even features a few humorous cameos (including the director himself, as well as refugees from She’s Gotta Have It and Do The Right Thing, but no trace of his sister Joie). Most of the actors are either beginners (including Flik and his would-be girlfriend and sidekick, Chazz) or little-known quantities.

The rough-hewn streets of South Brooklyn have none of Inside Man’s slickly-produced, noirish feel. There’s a reason for this: Lee self-financed this vehicle, and has been the main attraction at the grassroots viewing sessions in order to generate word-of-mouth. The low-budget production values – which feature shaky camera work, a slapdash cast with little chemistry or acting chops – don’t build critical mass for what should be an interesting plot. The undernourished narrative doesn’t leave much for either character development or star power.

Flik’s back-story is intriguing on its face, yet the reasons behind why his mother opts to deposit him in Red Hook with a grandfather he’s never met are left unexplored. Then there’s the question of the actors themselves, who never carry the weight of their roles. In all fairness, it’s hard for any teenage actor – let alone an inexperienced one like Jules Brown – to be the emotional nerve center of a major director’s film. The void he leaves is filled by Clarke Peters, who plays his grandfather, Enoch Rouse. Mr. Peters’ performance is arguably the movie’s most compelling, but his presence overshadows that of his young co-stars, who really should be the film’s center-of-gravity.

The post 'Red Hook Summer' suggests Spike Lee's star may be fading appeared first on theGrio.

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