Eliza Hittman's 'Beach Rats' Quietly Washes Away at Shore
Upon perusing my Hulu this weekend, I stumbled upon a film called Beach Rats where the premise of it looked somewhat interesting. Given that I had an hour and a half to kill before I headed out for the evening, I figured why not see what this was all about and give it a shot.
The film, directed by Eliza Hittman, centers on Frankie (played by newcomer Harris Dickinson) a teenager from Brooklyn who spends most of the film struggling to figure out what his sexuality is. It's interesting that a movie like this is being made in the modern day, given how these sorts of films went the way of the dodo bird about a decade ago. The fascination in the whole "coming out" type of story has faded as time has gone by, which is a good thing, only in Frankie's character, he's not necessarily coming out as he is living a double life.
The film starts with Frankie perusing a Grindr type of website, except this one looks to be a video chatting service as well. He has a lot of characteristics that "DL" guys have, showing off his body but keeping his face dimly lit or not seen at all. His type, when chatting with men online, seems to be with older men, yet the film doesn't really explain why that is until towards the end.
He primarily hangs out with three other friends, who spend their time going to the beach and pretty much not doing anything else throughout the film besides get high. During a trip to Coney Island ,Frankie meets a girl named Simone (Madeline Weinstein) who he enjoys a night with until they get back to his place and he's not interested in having sex with her. This may play into him being high, not finding her sexually attractive due to his conflicting sexuality, or something else.
At the same time, he still lives at home with his mother Donna (Kate Hodge) and sister Carla (Nicole Flyus). His father passes away from cancer towards the beginning of the film, yet it doesn't really go into the type of relationship the two of them had. His relationship with his mother and sister seem to be pretty emotionless, which paints him as sort of the angst-ridden teenager with a secret that he doesn't want anyone knowing.
Throughout the film, Frankie gets high and has sex with a bunch of older men, but you can't really tell if he is truly enjoying himself. When he winds up meeting up with a guy around his age, he reveals that the reason why he goes for older men is because none of them know who he is, therefore he can't get caught. That thought process almost gets him caught when he and Simone are on some sort of a boat party and one of the bartenders happens to be a guy he slept with.
His need for drugs eventually reaches a breaking point, where he tells his friends that he goes on these sites to meet up with men solely for the purpose of getting drugs. None of them seem to care too much, as they are more invested in the drugs than what they are actually telling him. For one, that looks to be crucial point of the film as it shows that Frankie's friends don't care about his wellbeing at all, they are more interested in just getting the drugs.
He meets up with one guy who has weed, but then his friends chase after him on the beach in an attempt to steal it from him. It's all shot very realistically, the lighting very dim, but the effect of all of this coming across. You can see that Frankie is troubled about his decision to bring his friends with him just for the intent of stealing the drugs from an innocent dude that just wanted to spend time with him, but throughout the movie you really don't get a sense on what sort of level this is affecting him.
Was the point of this film dealing with the pains of someone living a double life? It can't be easy for Frankie, but I wished there was some sort of emotional breakthrough where he could've confided in at least one person what was going on. You're sort of left with a feeling of nothingness as the film ends, and it makes me wonder if I missed any subtle nuances that would've made for a more satisfying ending. It just felt like it started with not much and ended with not much, where there was a lot of building up during.
Have you seen Beach Rats? What was your thought about this movie?