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Young Love Fuels The Coming Of Age Dramedy “Summer Night”

Everyone remembers hanging out during the summer. No matter what part of your youth it was during, being with your friends, feeling out the first pangs of love and sex with significant others, the whole shebang is steeped in positive nostalgia. Actor turned director Joseph Cross taps into that for his directorial debut Summer Night, a hangout movie from the word go. Cross crafts a film that feels lived in, as if these characters were already your friends. Balancing a number of plot lines with relative ease, he gives all the indications that he’s got a bright future behind the camera.

The movie is a coming of age tale, taking place over, you guessed it, one summer night. A whole bunch of young folks are dealing with various romantic entanglements, while most are getting ready to attend a concert at the Alamo that evening. Jameson (Ellar Coltrane) and Seth (Ian Nelson) are driving around when the latter gets a text from his girlfriend Mel (Analeigh Tipton). Turns out, she’s pregnant. He doesn’t handle it particularly well, causing stress for them both. While Seth is trying to figure out what to do, Jameson is torn between two very different girls in Corin (Elena Kampouris) and Harmony (Victoria Justice). Other characters include Taylor (Callan McAuliffe), who gets jumped and winds up cared for by the lovely Dana (Ella Hunt), as well as Jack (Bill Milner) and Lexi (Lana Condor), a couple on the rocks due to an infidelity. As these kids deal with their problems, they hang out with others, speculate on life and the future, and then head over to the concert. The plot is thin, but the characters are vivid. Cross directs a screenplay by Jordan Jolliff, with music from Dan Krysa, as well as cinematography by Michael FitzMaurice. The rest of the up and coming young cast includes Justin Chatwin, Khris Davis, Hayden Szeto, Melina Vidler, and more.

There’s an undeniable Richard Linklater vibe at play here, and that’s not just due to the Ellar Coltrane casting. The whole look and feel of the story is Linklater-esque. While not as instantly memorable or quotable as Linklater’s best is, like Dazed and Confused or Everybody Wants Some, that lays more at the feet of scribe Jordan Jolliff than Joseph Cross. The latter takes what the former sketched out and fills it with a loose vibe. Jolliff is helped out not just by Cross, but by the ensemble cast as well, in particular Coltrane, along with Elena Kampouris, Analeigh Tipton, and the rest.

Cross really does an admirable job as director. Not just in balancing his cast, but in how he handles the material. Once the story has almost all of the characters hanging out at the Alamo for the band’s show, he has the camera moving from one subplot to another, with a real verite feel. The camera just floats around, checking in with everyone. It’s a small choice, but one that pays real dividends, keeping you invested in everyone’s life and issues. If Cross chooses to keep directing, he’s someone to really watch out for. Without question, he’s got the goods to succeed.

This week, anyone who digs the hangout vibe made famous by the likes of Linklater and Kevin Smith should be interested in Summer Night. It’s not as good as what those auteurs have crafted in the past, but it’s a lot of low key fun and positions Cross as a multi hyphenate to look out for in the future. It’s an indie with charm to spare and a host of young actors and actresses who are showcasing their talents. Give it a look and you’ll see what I mean. Plus, in five years it’ll be fun to revisit the flick and see how much bigger the cast members have all become…

Be sure to check out Summer Nights, opening in limited release on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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