Thirteen-year-old “Minnesota” Boyd has taken to Hermosa Beach and all the pretty girls there.
It’s the summer of 1986, and newly transplanted teenager Doug Mills (Percy Hynes White) wants nothing more than to fit into the scene at Hermosa Beach. Things here are nothing like he was used to in the midwest. Suddenly he feels like he won the lottery as he can spend time at the beach surrounded by a multitude of girls in bikinis. At the age of thirteen Minnesota, as Doug prefers to be called, is still very innocent about the ways of the world and the beach culture in coastal California towns. To get started, Minnesota has applied to the Junior Lifeguards of Hermosa Beach training program. Luckily he has made the cut to receive the training, and he starts out by making friends with another kid his age called Woods (Jake Ryan) and meeting older teens Mathis (Jonathan Daviss), Terrence (Hudson Ritchie) and the out-of-his-league beauty Brooke (Charlotte Sabina). The training sessions are run by lifeguard captain Tony (Diarmaid Murtagh), a transplanted Australian who presides over Junior Guards like a boot camp drill sergeant complete with training sing-songs. Tony talks gruffly to his recruits in a thick accent, puts them through intense physical training, and writes on their backs with a magic marker to give them nicknames, his ways of maintaining discipline and keeping things under control. At the same time he is very offended if someone calls him “sir”, or tries to weasel out of things. When Woods tells Tony that he is allergic to the ink in the marking pen, he is called a peckerwood, and poor Minnesota gets labeled Peckerwood’s Friend on his back.
The Junior Lifeguards of Hermosa Beach.
As younger kids on the beach, Minnesota and Woods are occasionally targeted by bullies. Woods is somewhat of a wuss, and Minnesota must help him fight off the bullies. Minnesota is also a target because he rides around in a blue ripper BMX bike, complete with bright blue tires. Gradually as the days pass, Minnesota begins to make inroads with the older trainees, who offer advice and help him out. Eventually Minnesota’s bicycle is stolen and he is desperate to get it back. That leads him into interacting with a couple of the sleazier guys hanging out on the Strand (long cement beach walk) nicknamed Pots (Kane Richotte) and Pans (McCabe Gregg). The two tell Minnesota that they will take him to the Rock God (Peter Stormare), someone who knows everything that goes on the beach, and someone who can surely tell him where his blue ripper is. But there is a price to pay. Minnesota must go to the condo of local rock star The Yizz (Brian van Holt), race up to the top floor, and steal a potted marijuana plant from the deck. The fact that he is actually able to do this is a funny scene in itself. On delivery of the plant (or rather what is left of it), Pots and Pans make good their promise and take Minnesota to a rocky portion of the beach where he meets the so-called Sage of the Sea. The Rock God gives him some good advice and gives him a skateboard to use in the meantime. And Minnesota has gained some status from his actions.
Minnesota and Woods are the two youngest cadet lifeguards.
As the summer progresses Minnesota makes some real coming of age progress. He learns to interact with the older teens, swim like a pro, ride a surfboard, drink his first beer, and have his first make out session with an attractive girl. He even has some meaningful conversations with Brooke. All this happens within the background of the beautiful blue water and waves, sandy beach, and in the company of his newly acquired friends who now show him some respect (like where the Playboy magazines are hidden) and friendship.
Terrence and Mathis eventually take a liking to Minnesota.
Age of Summer is a pleasant look at teen life, keyed by director Bill Kiely’s looking at things through a modern lens rather than just producing a raunchy 80’s comedy. The pacing is mellow with plenty of well planned shots of the water; Kiely’s previous work at surfing and skateboarding competitions really pays off in this film. The cinematography by Darin Moran makes you want to head to beach and take part in the waves yourself. The film is well cast with a good balance of regular teens like lead actor Percy Hynes White and the eccentric character actors like Peter Stormare all part of the fun. The only downside is the constant Wonder Years — like narration, which tends to distract rather than add to your experience after you get the idea that this film is about Minnesota wanting to reminisce about one of the best years of his youth. But don’t hesitate to dive in to Age of Summer, one of the better movies in this genre.
Minnesota talking with “The Rock God”.
Closeup of Minnesota’s chucks as he skateboards on The Strand in Hermosa Beach.
Percy Hynes White (Minnesota) wears black low cut chucks with black shoelaces throughout the film when he is not on the beach training or in the water. The camera work is chucks-friendly, as the camera often cuts to closeups of his chucks when he is bicycling, skateboarding, and walking on the rocks or other ocean terrain. These are the best chucks scenes. Perhaps they are a visual metaphor for Minnesota’s youth and naïvete as they were and continue to be very popular sneakers for teenaged boys. Also seen wearing black low cut chucks is McCabe Gregg (Pans). Hudson Ritchie wears blue high top chucks in a couple of scenes.
Minnesota walking on the concrete wall next to The Strand.
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