Controversial, Explicit and Shockingly touching.Released: July 28 1995
Directed by: Larry Clark
Written by: Harmony Korine
Staring: Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson.
Running time: 91 minutes
By Gregory Robinson
In all my years of watching films; the good, the bad and the outright weird, I fail to remember a motion picture with such a disturbing opening and closing scene ever. On one hand, I must commend Larry Clark for kicking off this teen drama in such a blunt and unrestrained way, as well as leaving viewers with a horrifying image of the aftermath of a drug-and-drink fuelled party, leaves little to the imagination of what life may have been like for bored teenagers in the 90s.
"Kids" opens with 16 year old Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) seducing a pre-pubescent 12 year old girl. They kiss profusely, with the teen crooning her, whispering sweet nothings into her ears. I guess this would make any girl (or guy) feel like they are the only girl (or guy) in the world, a notion I certainly have no experience in... anyway - we soon realise that this is not a heart warming representation of teen romance, but a mentally tainted and perverse young adult (who has a striking resemblance to Christopher Mintz-Plasse) taking advantage of a young girl for kicks.
To make the whole scenario worse is the AIDS pandemic, which was a major concern for the sexually active at this time. The medical society had just begun to try and take control of the immune-system attacking virus. Furthermore, Telly meets his best friend, Casper (Justin Pierce) waiting impatiently to congratulate his pal for 'de-flowering a virgin'. Obviously, the close buddies have a lack of understanding on sex and the outcomes which may arise from the... duty.
This is only made more evident by one of the more clever moments the screenplay offers. A contrasting view of sex told from the perspective of horny, drug-filled guys and even hornier (and much more experienced) girls, as they recollect their sexual experiences such as 'losing their virginity at 15 at the back of a car' and 'the nasty taste swallowing a man's... penile fluid'. After which the film changes direction slightly...
Initially, I though this Larry Clark's "Kids" was going to be an all drinking, all smoking, sex fest (which it is, really) but at the heart of the film, there is a touching and possibly relatable revelation of a teenager, Jennie (Chloe Sevigny) discovering she has the HIV virus. Despite only having sex once, with, you guessed it! self-proclaimed virgin-deflowerer Telly. This rare down to earth scene is cut with Jennie's friend who has had unprotected sex in every body part penetrable who receives the all clear.
Underneath the opaque layer of teen-angst, there are hints at other social issues relevant during this time. Telly, Casper and their crew taunt and heckle a homosexual couple which brings forth the issue of homophobia. Many believed during this time, and during this decade, that HIV and AIDS are a "gay man's disease". Even though it is not explicitly mentioned, it wouldn't be a surprise to discover this group of stoned youths believed the same, all whilst one of their ranks was a sufferer.
The audience is also treated to a visit to Telly's mom's house who is struggling with raising his new baby brother and is strapped for cash. Whilst her exposed breast is gawped at by Casper, she refuses to lend money to Telly whom she believes is searching for a job. (this is occurs before the tampon scene which I will skip for your benefit...)
You're probably wondering how "Kids" ends... the gang are at a house party, empty bottles splayed over the floor and the wrecked furniture and cigarette butts are only a semblance of the disorderly gathering. Telly has persuade an innocent, young girl to sleep with him (unknowingly passing on the virus) whilst Jennie collapses onto the couch after being fed a pill. Casper wakes up to find her there and, well, "takes advantage of her". Unbeknown to him, she has been diagnosed with HIV, which is transmitted sexually.
"Kids" is the type of film which will be etched into your brain for a long, long time. It is not the type of film you would watch again, or casually show other 'kids' the dangers of safe sex. I guess the message of the film is to practice safe sex (and to not be so damn gullible when a guy is obviously only after one thing). When thinking about a lost cause like Telly, his life is sex, he is sex and sex is all he can do. His life is commanded by obtaining a young woman's innocence to satisfy himself in a world which appears to offer him nothing. Drugs and skateboards only add more to the toxic mix of a bored teenager.
Before you get any ideas, not all teenagers are like the teenagers in "Kids" and never will be. The "Kids" of our generation may be caught up in being "followed", "liked" and "double-tapped" on social media but not everyone is the same. And I'm sure Mr Telly would agree.
Check out the official trailer: