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Ken Park (2002)

  Directed by: Larry Clark, Edward Lachman
Written by: Larry Clark, Harmony Korine
Starring: Mike Apaletegui, James Bullard, Stephen Jasso, Tiffany Limos, James Ransone
Links: Ken Park on the IMDb, Official site
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Ken Park (2002) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Sweet Sixteen (2002).

"Too far?" - a review by andy-j

Ken Park was written and directed by Larry Clark, well-known for his highly confrontational and controversial previous efforts of Bully (2001) and Kids (1995). Ken Park looks at similar subject matter - the reality of being an American teenager. Clark has never been one to shy away from his subject matter, and in Ken Park, he goes where few other filmmakers have dared to go before.

In Ken Park, we meet a bunch of teenagers and observe their lives and relationships with their parents (or significant older influences). Shawn is sleeping with his girlfriend's mother. Peaches' religious father sees his deceased wife through his teenage daughter, idealising her life while denying her any real freedom. Tate, who has a mental illness and is only just coping, is living with his grandparents. And Claude is bullied by his cowardly father. Ken Park provides riveting viewing by putting its characters in confrontational situations that push the plot and character development forward at a million miles an hour. Peaches' father catches her having sex and his reaction will make you gasp. Tate loses the plot. Claude's father staggers home drunk one night and the unthinkable happens.

While Ken Park is confrontational and shocking and all the things that Bully and Kids are, it loses some of its power because it's fictional. It's just a story after all... it doesn't seem to be based on any actual events, yet I got the impression that the whole point of the film was to show things how they really are.. but... it's made up!

There doesn't seem to be much connecting the characters, which makes Ken Park look like a group of unrelated stories interweaved with each other. It all does come together a little in the end, but this tying-together is vague and unsatisfying. The plot seems a little thin - it appears to be more about characters than about an overall series of events. In addition, Clark likes to show us a LOT of teenage sex. You see everything (and I mean everything) in Ken Park. You'll only see similar stuff in porn. While a lot of the time, it does have a purpose (exposing characters, driving the plot forward, painting a realistic picture), there are some points where it seems to be shown purely for shock value. I guess I don't fully understand how showing some full-on sex fits in with the themes and the story. I would say that Ken Park shocks like no other film, and that it goes too far. Judging from wide reaction to the film, I'm not alone here.

Despite my objections however, it is a film that I'd like to see again, because it is interesting and I was glued to the screen.

andy-j gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Sat 15 Nov 2003

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Reader comments

  1. I can only assume that you saw this movie on a trip overseas, seeing as how it's not available for distribution in Australia.

    A comment from nofreelist's own mino on Mon 17 Nov 2003 08:53 #

  2. Something like that Paul..
    Nice choice of picture by the way :)

    A comment from Andrew on Mon 17 Nov 2003 18:03 #

  3. I saw this in South Africa. The film is about sex and violence. These kids live with daily violence. Thye resolve it, such as they can, with sex.

    The explicit sex in the movie is actually a balance to the violence, and it is no more gratuitous than the violence. I think this is the film's greatest contribution, but it seems to have got past most of the people in the audience with me, at a film festival.

    I think this is very sad, that we a more shocked by explict sex than we are by explicit violence. This is growing up in America as it really is.

    John

    Rating given: 8

    A comment from John on Sun 13 Jun 2004 22:11 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 8.00 (1 rating)

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