July 9th, 2021
STARRING: TYRIS WINTER, AUSTIN ANTOINE, MARQUESHA BABERS, MILA CUDA
DIRECTED BY: CARLOS LOPEZ ESTRADA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
It makes sense that Carlos Lopez Estrada, the director of Blindspotting, and the recently fantastic Raya and the Last Dragon, has made the all encompassing, and beautifully flowing film Summertime. His style of films have a great energy to them and have a complete grasp of involving a community. Blindspotting highlighted the gentrification of the Oakland California area. Raya was a universe of factions, split up, and being brought together by the power of a magical dragon. Summertime is more like Blindspotting, but similar to the passionate lyrics of the incredibly talented Daveed Diggs, Summertime is a stream of consciousness. The narrative involves bouncing from character to character, each story more unique, with dialogue in a poetic prose. It’s a hot summer day in the Los Angeles area and winding and weaving through the neighborhoods, along with twenty-five various characters, Summertime takes a trip through what it’s like to live in America. It’s wild, it’s sad, funny, and fierce. It’s all of us soaking it up in Summertime.
Like many movies made in this format, Summertime is a majority of hits and some misses. Ther first major character we meet is Tyris (Tyris Winter), a flamboyant person, having brunch with his friends and always prepared to review a restaurant on the service and experience. On this day his server isn’t in the mood to do much of anything and this sets Tyris on a rhyming complaint of burns and blistering words. The narrative then follows him on his walk and then turns to the beatboxing street music of Rah (Austin Antoine) and Anewbyss (Bryce Banks), a hip-hop duo that starts hitting superstardom faster than they can comprehend. Another story is the relationship woes of Sophia (Maia Mayor), a lonely soul, who is quick to assume that her boyfriend is cheating on her with another woman. In her rush to judgement, she loses herself, but in the quiet night she connects with a woman at the bus stop named Marquesha (Marquesha Babers), and the two find friendship in their comforting words. Each person is more unique than the next, each story has their own path, and Estrada blends it together with ease.
Talking about each segment of Summertime would be too much for a review, but it’s also not necessary because what starts as individual tales, quickly melts together to be one big body of work. There are thirty credited writers, but the majority of each segment comes from the brilliant minds of the actors and their poetry abilities. That’s genuinely what the dialogue is, which is a mixture of hip-hop rhymes, beat poetry, and emphatic passion behind the words. The partner in making Summertime work is the cinematography work by John Schmidt, who flows from one story to the next, maneuvering around characters to get a view of the streetscapes, and organically transitioning from one story to the next. It’s without a doubt that Summertime is a massive collaboration between everyone involved.
A film that comes to mind when watching Summertime is Richard Linklater’s classic shoestring independent film Slacker. There’s a much more glossy look to Summertime, but when comparing the two films, it’s a perfect example of the progress made in cinema today. Slacker was a groundbreaking piece, especially when we talk about an auteur, gathering his friends, working with other artists, aspiring actors, and making it work through sheer persistence. Summertime is not that, but it is the spirit of people today, a more diverse cast, a collection of various voices and backgrounds, capturing the melting pot that is Los Angeles.
Where Summertime falters is any of the true segments rising above the rest, but that’s also not the goal of Estrada. There’s not a single actor that upstages the next, although the performance from Tyris Winter is an excellent mixture of confidence and raw emotions, and yet Estrada makes sure to end Summertime on the perfect collaborative note. All the various characters find their way into a limousine for the night and it’s closed out with pulling the car over to the top of a hill and the group admiring the stars and city from afar. That’s what Summertime is all about, various people, the complexities of humans, and admiring it all. That’s why this Summertime is shining with a radiant glow.
SUMMERTIME IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS JULY 9TH
Written by: Leo Brady