Beach Rats

Beach Rats

2017, R, 95 min. Directed by Eliza Hittman. Starring Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Nicole Flyus, Anton Selyaninov, Frank Hakaj, David Ivanov, Harrison Sheehan, Erik Potempa.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 8, 2017

Even though 19-year-old Frankie (Dickinson) is out of school, he has no job and is still living at home with his parents and sister in their house on the outer edges of working-class Brooklyn. He spends his afternoons and evenings hanging with his pals at the local vape parlor or taking the train to Coney Island where they smoke weed, eye girls, pick pockets, and otherwise cavort. Back home, Frankie spends more furtive time in the basement tentatively checking out gay chat rooms on the computer, while upstairs his father lies in bed dying of cancer. Frankie’s knucklehead friends would never condone Frankie’s homosexual curiosity were they to know about it; even Frankie is uncertain since he also reluctantly accepts as a girlfriend Simone (Weinstein), who plucks him out from the crowd at the Friday-night fireworks.

The psychology of Frankie’s situation isn’t probed any more deeply than what’s described above, which can be a bit frustrating. However, Beach Rats isn’t about the story as much as it’s about texture and tone. When not outdoors shooting in the summer sun, the film often resorts to the cover of darkness, which is masterfully photographed by Hélène Louvart. The dark recesses are an apt match for Frankie’s laconic interactions: Much is hidden. Frankie and the other boys are frequently shirtless, the camera relishing their buff, young bodies and staring at the male physique with the openness of Claire Denis’ Beau Travail. British newcomer Harris Dickinson, with his puffy lips and physical magnetism, invites us to maintain our gaze.

Writer/director Eliza Hittman, who won the director’s prize for this film earlier this year at Sundance, has a special feeling for teenagers’ emergent sexuality. Her previous film, It Felt Like Love looked at a young girl’s fumbled attempt to mimic her older friend’s sexual and moral promiscuity. In Beach Rats, Hittman looks at a boy’s attempt to demonstrate to himself and others that he’s not gay. Hittman’s style is to explore these inchoate longings through visual cues that evoke a strong sense of mood and place. The details of characters’ internal thought processes are left to our imagination. Still, this movie hits the senses like the fresh impact of saltwater air.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Eliza Hittman Films
It Felt Like Love
...

Sept. 26, 2020

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
...

Sept. 26, 2020

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Way I See It
Portrait of presidential photographer Pete Souza has depth but lacks focus

Sept. 18, 2020

Our Time Machine
Stunning documentary about puppetry, art, Alzhiemer's, and a son's love

Sept. 11, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Beach Rats, Eliza Hittman, Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Nicole Flyus, Anton Selyaninov, Frank Hakaj, David Ivanov, Harrison Sheehan, Erik Potempa

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle