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Entries in tchoupitoulas (2)

Friday
Dec072012

Only the Young

This week isn’t a particularly big week for movies. There’s only one major release—a romantic comedy starring Gerard Butler that, if it’s like his last genre endeavor, The Bounty Hunter, is bound to fail—and only a few little nothing movies that will barely see the light of day. Two of those movies share similar approaches. The documentary Tchoupitoulas follows a few young boys around as they discover New Orleans nightlife and are forced to come-of-age and it’s fairly awful, never coming close to anything even remotely insightful. However, Only the Young, a film that follows a group of punk skater kids around is decidedly different. There is real depth here, both in the characters and in the emotional pull of the film.

The two main subjects are a couple of high school kids named Garrison and Kevin. They live in a small desert town in California and they love to skate. In fact, they spend almost all their time together doing just that. For years, they’ve been inseparable and despite some bumps in the road, including an awkward kiss Kevin shares with Garrison’s ex-girlfriend, Skye, they remain close. This is the heart and soul of Only the Young. It’s about two boys who don’t really know where their lives are heading or where they’ll be in 10 years, but, frankly, they don’t care. They live in the moment, rarely showing signs of sadness or fatigue. They cherish every moment together and brighten up when one sees the other coming.

But their personalities are deeper than a mutual bond they share with each other and it all hearkens back to Garrison’s unwillingness to harbor any resentment towards Kevin when he kisses Skye. He cares too much for his friend to do so and he genuinely wants him to succeed. When Kevin qualifies for a skate contest, but then fails to place, Garrison, even at his young age, doesn’t ridicule his friend like many would. He instead talks of how proud he is of Kevin for even getting to that point. Skaters and punk rock kids are always seen as rebellious and godless, but that’s not necessarily the case (as seen when Garrison and Kevin head out with a religious organization to a local skate park and try to spread the gospel through skateboarding). These kids are surprisingly selfless and profoundly mature.

Perhaps the best example of this maturity comes during an interview with Skye when she discusses a time when she was still with Garrison. She speaks highly of him, stressing the importance of a real connection, someone you can have fun with and love without getting physical. She then suddenly reveals that Garrison never even kissed her, which may sound strange to us, but it didn’t bother her. As she says, she’s had enough kisses to know they don’t mean much unless there’s something special behind it. Did I mention these kids were still in high school?

Only the Young is about friendship, teenage anxiety, romance, growing up, moving on and it even puts faith (and the struggle with it) in greater context in the back half of the film. The problem is that at only 70 minutes, less if you don’t include the credits, it doesn’t take the time it needs to fully explore these themes. They’re definitely there and they’re easy to recognize, but too often they’re sped through, usually right when they’re starting to nail some bigger meaning. Nevertheless, the film is infinitely more interesting than one might expect it to be. What often happens when putting real life kids on camera is they act out, trying to impress rather than acting normally. Rarely does it feel that way here and when emotion seeps through, particularly with the effervescent Skye, who is dealing with a father in jail, a heroine addicted mother and the foreclosure of her grandparents’ home, it’s real. Only the Young looks pretty simple on the surface, but when you step back and put all the pieces together, it proves itself to be something quite special.

Only the Young receives 4/5

Friday
Dec072012

Tchoupitoulas

Documentaries are supposed to give viewers a glimpse at life. They’re supposed to show a section of the world that they may not be familiar with or a highlight a group of individuals that are interesting enough to follow for a couple hours. But simply pointing your camera at locations and people does not derive meaning or create interest. In recent years, this was most clearly seen with 2010’s horribly overrated Babies, which somehow managed to fool its gullible viewers into thinking it had some profound meaning. This week’s newest documentary, Tchoupitoulas, is largely the same. There’s nothing interesting, fun, funny or meaningful about it and it’s a complete bore, only slightly better than Babies and slightly worse than getting a root canal.

The film, which gets its name from Tchoupitoulas St. in Louisiana, follows three brothers as they discover New Orleans nightlife for the first time, though for no real reason. They just decide to go there and a whole lot of nothing happens. The film makes brief pit stops in an attempt to spice things up a bit, including in the prep room of what appears to be a strip club, but it never explains their significance, aside from the broad portrayals of New Orleans eccentricity the film is trying to capture. It also makes stops at a club where a rapper performs in front of an enthusiastic crowd, a restaurant where an innocently flirtatious waiter serves up oysters and even a few park benches where men feud and the homeless sing the blues, but what this has to do with the story of three young kids discovering New Orleans nightlife, I have no idea.

Presumably because the kids aren’t old enough to enter into many of New Orleans’ more colorful establishments, they are repeatedly left behind in favor of the filmmakers’ own extraneous exploration, but such a tactic is contradictory to the movie’s very own synopsis. One can’t help but question what the point is. What story is the film trying to tell? Is this a coming-of-age tale where these three kids are thrust into an unusual situation and forced to grow up due to the hardships and perversions they’re witnessing? Or is this simply a point-and-shoot movie with no real goal? Based on the evidence here, I’d go with the latter. Anybody can point a camera at some unsavory characters and call it a documentary, but it takes something extra to actually make it so.

Eventually, the kids board what looks to be an abandoned steamboat and sneak around for no decipherable reason (nothing says New Orleans like an abandoned steamboat). I suppose they’re hoping to find something interesting, much like the movie itself. Also like the movie itself, they don’t. They just walk around, look at some things and then leave. Not once in its blissfully short hour and 20 minute runtime does Tchoupitoulas muster up any sense of reason, feeling or insight. It coasts along on a thin premise and, perhaps unsurprisingly, creates an even thinner film from it. There’s nothing to admire here and, unless you’re in dire need of sleep, no reason to turn it on.

Tchoupitoulas receives 1/5