Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review: Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story

Image courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Eva Husson's feature debut "Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story" does a pretty decent job of conveying some of the tendencies of youth - how boredom and the need for acceptance can lead to bad decision making, the petty rivalries between friends over romantic crushes and the rush of getting involved in something illicit. That being said, the film never becomes much more than what it is - a picture about a group of French youths whose orgiastic parties spiral out of control, leading to a somewhat sour denouement.

The film - which has a title much more salacious than anything portrayed onscreen - is obviously taking a page from the Larry Clark playbook and appears to want to be a French version of 1995's notorious "Kids," although the film borrows stylistically from other filmmakers, especially Sofia Coppola, whose dreamy tales of lithe youths have an undercurrent of sadness.

In the picture, a sexually experienced girl named George (Marilyn Lima) and her virginal pal Laetitia (Daisy Broom) find themselves competing for the attention of a cad named Alex (Finnegan Oldfield), who idles away his days at home with his buddy Nikita (Fred Hotier). Alex's mother is conveniently working in Morocco for a spell, leaving the house for he and his friends to use for raucous parties.

After George discovers that Laetitia has slept with Alex, she throws caution to the wind and initiates a truth or dare type of game with Alex's friends - a group of attractive young men and women - that skips the truth part. The group - dubbed the bang gang for obvious reasons - gains notoriety at school and Alex and Nikita soon set up a pay-per-view online element in which people can watch members of the group, well, take a guess.

Things become even more complicated for George and Laetitia after Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefebvre), Laetitia's EDM-creating classmate and neighbor who is struggling after his father is left crippled, catches both of their eyes and their competition switches from Alex, who has since moved on to some one or two or 20 other girls, to this new love interest.

Husson's film is well shot and pretty well acted for a debut featuring mostly unknowns, but it ultimately pales in comparison next to the films it emulates, such as Clark's profoundly disturbing "Kids." And there's a twist, of sorts, toward the finale during which the teens involved in the bang gang face the music, so to speak, in a plot development that leaves a sour taste in the mouth in the style of the 1980s downer "The Last American Virgin."

There are some elements to admire here that suggest Husson might make a better film with stronger material. But while "Bang Gang" may be nice to look at, it's not showing us anything we haven't seen many times before.

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