USA (70 mi) 2012 d: Tim Sutton Official site
If this film had not been screened in a movie theater charging tickets for admission and had instead had been viewed online, for instance, or behind the scenes as something recommended by a friend asking for input, I’d be hard pressed to come up with something all that original, as despite the length, my impression is that this is an extended product placement commercial for BMX mountain bikes (BMX bike), where the audio portion of the commercial, namely the selling points, had yet to be added, or were purposefully deleted, creating a more abstract effect. Perhaps this was something to be played at a bike convention, running continuously on a large-sized wall as bikes were being showcased in a warehouse-sized, open-area main floor. As a commercial, the film would be cutting edge as it doesn’t continuously display the product, but instead creates images of young kids as they occasionally appear in real life, getting together one on one, or in smaller groups, where riding bikes is the common denominator in their daily life activities, much like a car would be the focus of attention in a gathering of adults. In this presentation, adults are all but absent, and the few that appear don’t stick around long, as kids spend as little time with them as possible. Bikes allow the kids freedom and mobility, whether riding alone or in groups, as it becomes an extension of their personalities. There’s a hierarchy attainable from BMX social status, as a few of the kids can easily perform various tricks on their bikes, and can constantly be seen practicing, elevating their skills, attaining a kind of cult status that separates them from other bike riders who simply travel from point A to point B, where their cool, disaffected manner can be viewed as sex appeal at this young pubescent age.
Seeing the film in a theater, however, one has to alter one’s perceptions, as cinematically it stands outside most people’s comfort zones, as there’s little to no story to speak of. While the film is reminiscent of Matthew Porterfield’s Baltimore films, HAMILTON (2006) and Putty Hill (2010), two minimalist, non-narrative mood pieces, the opening fireworks sequence is easily the best thing in the film, shooting off flares, holding sparklers, all illuminating an otherwise blackened night. After that, a teenage boy Max moves from living with his mother in an exclusive, tree-lined suburb of upstate New York to living in a cramped hotel room with his father in a somewhat undeveloped suburb in Arizona where there’s plenty of empty space in the desert landscape. Bored and without any real friends, Max drifts around, hanging out alone and in small gatherings with other kids. An abstract portrait of aimless teenage kids, what the audience sees are conversations and friendships that never really develop or materialize, as the kids remain aloof and detached from one another, afraid to ever show their feelings or offer their friendship, so instead they just drift from day to day, occasionally connecting, more often not, where Max can often be seen just staring outside his hotel window. While the film is distinguished by having such an indefinite shape, kind of a make of it what you will, it’s largely a mood piece without any dramatic thrust to it at all. The point of the film is as ambiguous as the characters themselves, none of whom stand out, where some may be drawn to the colors and shapes that appear onscreen, the movement of the bikeriders or the skateboarders, or people hiking through the woods. There is some awkward party footage of a drunken guy staple-gunning his face, or later electrocuting himself, egged on by a few other drunken misfits, but the overall impression is incredibly pathetic. With no character really drawn to another, it suggests kids simply drift through their childhood in a kind of timeless state, mostly isolated and withdrawn from each other, even in one another’s company. While the disinterested tone is unsentimentalized, resembling real life, without any real conflict there’s simply no drama to speak of, making it a chore to tag along with 70 minutes of teenage indifference.