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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Kids

Starring: Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce
Director: Larry Clark
Rated: NR
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: July 1995
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Chloe Sevigny, Sarah Henderson, Rosario Dawson, Harold Hunter, Yakira Peguero, Joseph Knofelmacher

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

KIDS is a film by first time director Larry Clark about a group of kids from about 10 to 15 years in age. They are a culturally diverse group of boys and girls who share a common trait, they represent a good parent's worst nightmare and they have zero moral values. Let me warn you upfront that as a parent, watching this show was about as enjoyable as having boiling oil poured over my body. Non-parents may be able to view the movie more dispassionately and give it higher marks. On the other hand, the people who should probably see KIDS are parents, especially poor to mediocre ones. Having thus been forewarned, let me continue with the review.

KIDS tells the story of Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) and Jennie (Chloe Sevigny), and their friends Ruby (Rosario Dawson), Harold (Harold Hunter), Darcy (Yakira Peguero), Casper (Justin Pierce), and many others. Telly spends all of his waking hours plotting ways to seduce very young girls into having sex for the first time. When he is not busying doing this, he and his friends are drinking malt liquor, doing drugs, stealing things, trashing houses, lying constantly, and demonstrating all of the traits associated with what was known as hoodlum behavior in a more genteel age.

Although the script by Harmony Korine does not show any of the kids as having positive attributes, it does portray the girls as sort of willing victims. Given that statistics show that teenage mothers have typically had liaisons with men in their early 20s, this depiction of girl as victim may not be inaccurate. In this movie, the kids were painted in degrees of evil, but the worst were the boys. A set of frightening images all around. The most graphic horror movies are nothing compared to KIDS.

Although the filming does not have the hand held camera instability of a documentary, overall, the script and especially the low quality of the acting makes you think you are watching a poor documentary of an extremely important subject. I read the director had the kids ad lib a lot. The picture feels as if they cast them all in a single day on the street and told the kids to just act natural. I suspect it was more organized than that, but it feels pretty amateurish. The depressing and filthy sets add to its documentary feel.

The boys and the girls in the movie are obsessed with sex. They talk about it constantly, and do it when not busy with drinking, getting stoned and passing out, or other such activities. They all act as if they had fried their brains with drinking and drugs years ago and thereby reduced their IQ levels to under 80. Low mumbling and foul language is the way they communicate. You may wish many of the scenes were subtitled.

Most of the movie is about Jennie and her quest for Telly after she finds he got her HIV positive with her only sexual encounter ever. The movie totally ignores the possibility of teen pregnancy and of getting thrown in jail, yet has a girl get AIDS with a single incident. The relative likelihood of the problems were totally out of proportion.

KIDS runs 1:30, and I saw every painful minute of it, but wish I hadn't. It is unrated because the MPAA board was going to give it an NC-17 and since the producer wanted kids to be able to see KIDS, he released it as unrated instead. There is no way I would let a kid see this show. It is perhaps useful material for adults but could be misinterpreted by kids. On the other hand, most of the people in the audience I was at seemed to be about 18. I wondered what they thought of it. Beside all of the horror mentioned above, it has extreme violence which is treated as nothing by the kids in the movie. So we may have killed someone; so what. One of the kids, I think Casper, sums the kids' philosophy when he says "when you are young, not much matters". I can not actually recommend this show that makes Kafka look like an optimist, but if you do go, you may gain some insights, depressing as the film may be. I award KIDS ** for risk taking and chilling realism. Were I not a parent, perhaps I might have been able to view it more charitably and give another half star or so.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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