By James Lindorf
Joseph Cross may not be a big Hollywood name, but he is a face you may recognize from HBO’s Big Little Lies or Netflix’s Mindhunter. He chose to get behind the camera for the first time to give life to Jordan Jolliff’s Summer Night script. Best friends, Seth and Jameson, are getting ready to perform and party at The Alamo, their small town’s most significant source of entertainment. Life is all fun and games until they each get served a major reality check. Seth receives life-changing news from his girlfriend Mel and Jameson has to choose between his on-again-off-again girlfriend Corin and the outspoken girl, Harmony, he’s just met. The drama doesn’t end with the pair, as Summer Night intertwines the lives of 13 friends and newcomers fueled by drinking with a backdrop of live music. Their long Summer Night will premier in theaters in at least 11 major markets around the country and VOD on July 12th.
Summer Night is a coming of age tale centered on romantic relationships at almost all possible stages. Long term couples doing well and those racked by the unexpected. New pairings struggling to get started while others have an awkward meet-cute that leads to instant chemistry. Perhaps it is his background as an actor, but Cross was able to get excellent performances from most of the very large ensemble cast.
One of my favorite things about the film is how multiple stories conclude. Cross and Jolliff allowed the cast to have input on their characters, and as a team, they came up with endings that are a lot more complex below the surface. While things may look like happily ever after, there is some facial acting that hints that their troubles may be far from over.
Jolliff did a respectable job of creating so many relatable characters and then placing them in realistic situations. Unfortunately, all of them are underserved by the large cast, a relatively short run time of 98 minutes, and an extended musical sequence in the middle of the film. There are two or three characters too many, and while the music compliments various relationships, it also takes up too many precious minutes.
Cross may not have reinvented the genre his first time out, but there are a lot of useful elements here for him to build upon in his next project. Summer Night is enjoyable but could have been much more if the characters were allowed to stay up a few more hours and expand on their stories with a longer run time.
Ellar Coltrane (BOYHOOD)
Ian Nelson (THE BOY NEXTDOOR)
Analeigh Tipton (TWO NIGHT STAND)
Callan McAuliffe (THE GREAT GATSBY)
Ella Hunt (ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE)
Hayden Szeto (TRUTH OR DARE)
Bill Milner (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS)
Lana Condor (TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE)
Elena Kampouris (BEFORE I FALL)
Khris Davis (DETRIOT)
Melina Vidler (TV’s 800 Words)
Victoria Justice (The Outcasts)
Justin Chatwin (“Shameless”)