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.
- Rated: R
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
- Release Date: 4/23/2021
- Directed by: Carlos López Estrada
- Starring: Alyssa Kim, Austin Antoine, Gordon Ip, Sophia Thomas, Sun Park, Walter Finnie Jr.
- Produced by: Alisa Tager, Carlos López Estrada, Jeffrey Soros, Kimberly Stuckwisch, Simon Horsman
- Written by: Alyssa Kim, Austin Antoine, Carlos López Estrada, Gordon Ip, Sophia Thomas, Sun Park, Walter Finnie Jr.
- Studio: Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF)