CUFF 2021: Our Review of ‘Summertime’

CUFF 2021: Our Review of ‘Summertime’

IndieWire senior critic David Ehrlich’s opening lines are legendary, so much so that they border on Rosie DiManno territory. One of my favourites is, without a doubt, the time that Ehrlich described Trey Edward Shult’s Waves as being A24s Magnolia. It’s a statement that carries little weight. Which is doubly the case when you watch Waves and realize it’s very different from Magnolia.

With all due respect to Mr. Ehrlich, A24s Magnolia isn’t Waves, it’s Carlos López Estrada’s Summertime. For starters, Estrada’s Blindspotting follow-up is actually a hyperlink narrative. It follows a group of Angelinos over the course of a summer afternoon as they attempt to survive in the big city. Additionally, Summertime actually features a number of performative musical set-pieces. Remember, the “Wise Up” scene in Magnolia? At times, this film feels like it is all “Wise Up” scenes, as the film makes liberal use of music and beat poetry. Characters will break into verse at will, expressing themselves thought the spoken word.

Sometimes, this is narratively focused, a performative space for this character. At others, these moments take on the air of more classically designed musical number. The narrative here stops and gives way to spectacle. I prefer the latter, and so the former irked me. That’s until I realized that within Summertime, the characters are more comfortable speaking their truths during these spectacles. It’s the ones who are still struggling to comprehend that truth who find themselves performing more along the lines of fantasy.

But also, at its core Estrada’s piece is an ode to the city of Los Angeles, a love letter if you will. Just about every city should have a film like this made about it, but only the greats do. Be proud of that space if you’ve got it.

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Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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