“Kids” Review

My first review in the cult classics reviews is the Larry Clark film “Kids”–next is “Salo, or 120 Days of Sodomy” so stay tuned for that one!

“Kids” is one of those rare, great movies that is so unflinchingly honest and real that you completely forget you’re watching a movie with actors.  It’s as if director Larry Clark pulled these kids off the innercity NYC streets and asked them to improv for a movie and this is what he filmed.  The result is something brutal, raw, and extremely hard to take in at moments.  Within the last five minutes, I was sitting in my seat horrified at what was about to happen and how hopeless the whole situation was.  But that’s only half of Kid’s brilliance.

The film, which was relased in 1995, caused a great deal of controversy from conservative groups who viewed it as “exploitive” or “kiddie porn.”  Because the movie was so shocking after recieving an NC-17 rating, it was then decided that the film would be relased without a rating. 

I can tell your right now that “Kids” is a lot of things, but it is not exploitive or kiddie porn.  In fact, compared to Clark’s later work, there’s a shockingly little amount of nudity and actual sex.  But as a whole, the film is about sex and features the central characters talking about sex nearly all of the movie.  And yes, some of the descriptions can be extremely graphic.  But while the movie opens and closes with sex scenes, none of which are erotic in the least  immediately shooting down the exploitive accusation, most of the movie deals with the forthcoming aftermath of these sexual encounters.

The only real plot in this movie beyond a day in the life of innercity teens who smoke, take drugs, drink, and get into fights is that of Jenny who has been diagnosed with the AIDs virus after only having sex once.  Jenny’s mistake was screwing Telly who has made it his mission to deflower has many virgins in the city as possible (the younger the better) because he believes he won’t get any STDs that way.  Yes, everyone, that’s irony at it’s best since Telly already has AIDs–apparently one of his virgin conquests wasn’t very honest about her virginity.  After being diagnosed, Jenny goes on a mission to find Telly and break the news to him that he gave her AIDS, and he has it too.

Chloe Sevigny, who plays Jenny, is the heart and soul of this movie.  She’s instantly the most likable, and the one you feel the most sympathy for.  Chloe wears the pained and distraught expressions on her face like a badge of honor.  But she’s also one of the scariest characters.  Sure, most of these characters get what’s coming to them, but it’s a cruel fact of life that the poor vigrin girl who was coaxed into having sex with some sleazy guy who insists on not wearing protection will get AIDs all because of one stupid moment of lack of judgement.  The message is clear as you’re watching Sevigny’s unraveling, this can happen to anyone.  And it is, right now.

The only other likable character, within reason, is Casper (played by the late Justin Pierce).  While he does do some pretty horrible things, I couldn’t help but feel a huge sense of sadness watching him go down in complete destruction.  Casper is clearly the type who is easily influenced–yes, you know the type: the best friend who will go along with whatever the other one is doing because he wants to be as cool his friend, and wants acceptance which leads into doing some pretty awful things.  But as much as Casper engages in drug use, stealing, fighting, and drinking he’s also one of the few characters who seems to have a bit of a conscious.  The scene on the subway seems to be the best indicator of this when he gives money to a man with no legs, and when Telly begins talking about his next sexual conquest target.  Pierce plays the scene brilliantly, acting distracted, a little uninterested and  shocked at what his best friend is saying; at one point even exclaiming, “She’s (Darcy) thirteen, man!”  

Which brings me to Telly.  Behold, the most disgusting character ever written for film.  With his crooked teeth, baby face, and nasal-y voice, it’s almost amazing to me that Telly was able to sweet talk any girl into sleeping with him.  But as  I heard someone point out a few days ago, it was probably intended to be this way.  The fact that Telly is (let’s be honest) ugly, and Casper is attractive only further extends your hate for what a sleazebag he is.  And you watch in complete horror as he seduces thirteen year old Darcy, knowing that this poor girl is about to have her life ruined by AIDs.  

The one scene that completely shook me was the next to last one.  (SPOILER) Casper walks in on Telly and Darcy naked and asleep in bed, and desperately wanting to be like his friend and get laid, goes into the living room and finds Jenny lying on the couch, asleep.  So, with his best friend as his only guide, Casper slowly takes of Jenny’s pants and rapes her (although I don’t think in Casper’s mind it was rape, as he kept telling her it’s her friend  Casper and he was so drunk/high that he probably believed she was awake and enjoying it).  The sex scene is probably one of the most uncomfortable scenes you will ever watch, and the one continuous thought in your head is, “Casper, no! Don’t!!” (or at least it was in mine).  I think, for me, the saddest part about it was, Casper had potential to be a really good person once he grew up and got out of the city.  And he threw it all away in an attempt to get laid and be like his best friend. 

The last shot in the movie features Casper sitting on a couch finally coming to realize what’s just happened with a look of horror, shock, and bewilderment all across his face that stays there until the fade-out.  That one look perfectly sums up  the viewere’s feelings after watching this, and is now one of my favorite shots of any movie.   If this were real life, all four of these characters would probably be dead by now.  And that’s a pretty deafening thought.

“Kids” is definitely essential viewing for anyone mature enough to realize these teeangers are not someone you should emulate.  And it should be required viewing for parents if they realize not all kids are like this, but a very specific group.  I read on Amazon that parents should make it a point to watch this movie with their kids, and then ask them what they thought about it.  And actually listen to what they have to say.  It could give you a great deal of insight into how closely their lives parrell the kids featured in this movie.  And if it raises awareness of the world teens now are living in, and possibly straightens a teen out, then this movie has done it’s job.

On a side note, if you are sexually active, do yourself a favor, and take the time to be tested for AIDs this week.  It was world AIDs day Monday.  Know who you’re sleeping with.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m quite behind on reading your blog, but I read this and I have to say your skills as a reviewer continue to astound me. And I don’t know where you find these movies sometimes, but I feel like I need to see this at some point in the near future. What’s the best place to snag a copy?

    • Ahh thank you so much, darling!! I got mine off Netflix, but I’m actually ordering a copy off Amazon today so if you’d like to watch it over Christmas break via movie night that’s totally doable 🙂
      It’s definitely an important movie to see, and I DEFINITELY think you’d love it too! As for finding these movies…it’s usually one leads to another, actors in it that I find interesting, or pure controversy that leads me to it, haha. Speaking of movies we need to see Brothers soon btw 😀


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