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Summer Night

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Summer Night Movie Poster Image
Millennial dramedy full of smoking, drinking, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Young people flounder through a night in their life that has the potential to be transformative. Some eventually make mature decisions, but there's no clear positive takeaway -- and drinking/drug use are normalized.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women are unapologetically in control of their sexuality. Non-white characters are in the minority and seem to exist more to support the white characters' storylines. The friends sometimes put each other down, but it's presented in the context of friends good-naturedly giving each other a hard time.

Violence

A man is attacked, beaten up, kicked, and robbed at knife point. An injury occurs in a mosh pit when one dancer pushes his friend. 

Sex

Most characters are pursuing romance. No sex is shown, but it's a major plot point for two sets of characters. One couple is dealing with news of unexpected pregnancy; they briefly speak about what occurred with crass language. Another couple is grappling with fact that one of them lost her virginity to another guy in a one-night stand. A character suggests that she'll send someone nude photos of herself, later implies she'd like to have sex. A couple strips down to underwear to swim on their first date. A character continues to throw herself at someone who's on a date with someone else.

Language

Profanity is used in nearly every sentence, including "f--k" (and many variations), "a--hole," "bitch," "d--khead," "s--t," "pissed," "screw," "sluts," "sucks," and the middle finger. Crass language while describing how a woman got pregnant.

Consumerism

The film is about promoting various bands: A character wears a Thin Lizzy T-shirt, there are mentions of The Destroyers, and there's a The Kills sticker on a guitar. Instagram is referenced.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Much of the film takes place in bars, and there's rampant drinking (beer, margaritas, other alcohol); some characters clearly get drunk. Most smoke cigarettes. Scenes of gleeful drug use (two with marijuana, one with cocaine). Characters speak of being high. The substance/alcohol use doesn't result in negative consequences.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Summer Night is a mature coming-of-age dramedy about a large group of 20-something friends living in a small heartland town. The partying begins almost immediately; half of the movie takes place in bars. Expect nearly nonstop drinking, smoking, and drug use (including both pot and cocaine); the takeaway is that substance use is part of everyday life in your post-high school years. Language is also constant -- particularly "f--k" (and many variations), "s--t," and "d--khead." There's also plenty of sex talk and sexual situations (including talk of virginity loss, stripping down to underwear to swim, and the suggestion of sending nude photos). One long-term couple is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy; abortion is bandied about as an option but not really discussed. Violence is infrequent, but a man is attacked, beaten up, kicked, and robbed at knife point. Analeigh Tipton, Victoria Justice, and Justin Chatwin co-star.

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What's the story?

In SUMMER NIGHT, as the season starts to wind down, 13 friends in a small town -- including Mel (Analeigh Tipton), Harmony (Victoria Justice), Andy (Justin Chatwin), and more -- gather for a night of music at the local bar. As they go out to watch and support each other, they evaluate old relationships and explore new ones, trying to decide what (and with whom) they should take as their next step in life.

Is it any good?

This dramedy will make teens look forward to their next decade -- and make parents appreciate that they never have to go back. With its focus on a large group of friends who meet up at a local music venue and deal with relationship dramas, it's kind of like if Richard Linklater directed He's Just Not That Into You. While Summer Night clearly intends to have that Dazed and Confused feel, there are just too many characters to care particularly about any of them. And, although it seems like each is going through something transformative, it doesn't seem like anything really gets resolved over the course of the story's one night -- making the film pointless. In the end, it's like going out with a bunch of people you just met and all they do is whine about their personal problems -- you just want to escape.

Actor-turned-director Joseph Cross and writer Joseph Jolliff seem to have one goal in making this film: getting it played at the SXSW Film and Music Festival. The music feels like it was cherry-picked to appeal to the Austin crowd, as does the youth-focused story with its Texas feel (even if it was filmed in Georgia) and a music venue named The Alamo (a reference to Last Night at the Alamo, a film credited as the origin of the Austin filmmaking community). It really feels like Cross wants viewers to recognize how cool it is through the indie music acts he includes and how much screen time they're given. The concert performances are worked into the film by having four of the characters perform in the various bands, but the actors look unnatural and awkward next to the real musicians. As for those actors: They all deliver fine performances, but somehow it comes together like an acting class exercise. You can almost hear each vignette close with "aannnnnndddd ... scene!"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Summer Night depicts drug and alcohol use. Does it imply that substance (ab)use is just part of life as a young adult? If it's meant to look fun, why do you think characters make comments like "don't come over high" and "I like you when you're YOU"? What do you think the filmmaker is trying to say, if anything?

  • What does Caleb mean when he says that, in 2019, an unplanned pregnancy is "offensively irresponsible"? What reaction do you think Mel wanted to get from Seth when he learned about the pregnancy? How do you think he handled the news?

  • Babies are a recurring point in the film. How is the idea of being a parent portrayed? Do you think it's realistic?

  • Do you think this movie has a message? If so, what is it? Does a movie need to have a message to make it worthwhile?

Movie details

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