By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Flik Royale (Jules Brown) is used to the comforts of his middle-class suburban life in the Atlanta area, so when his mother decides to send him to spend the summer with his grandfather in the poor New York suburb of Red Hook, Flik is faced with the culture shock of his pre-teen life. Adding to his frustration is the fact that his Grandfather is “Da good Bishop” Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters). As the religious leader of the local Baptist church, he takes his chance to put a little old time religion in his grandson.
Needless to say, it does not go this well…
Director Spike Lee seems to have set out to hit the reset button on his film career, as the style, camerawork, and dialog have far more in common with Lee’s lower budget early films than his more recent features. For the most part this is a good decision, as this film benefits greatly from his low-tech approach. It gives his performers the freedom to experiment with their roles, outside the realm of studio intervention, resulting in some eccentric and unique performances. As Bishop Enoch, Clarke Peters is the heart and soul of Red Hook Summer. He portrays a deeply spiritual individual who has worked for years to the betterment of his community, and secretly is trying to atone for past sins. In his grandson, he sees a project, setting out to bring Flik to god, and make a good Christian out of him. Enoch is the pillar of the community, respected for his passion and enthusiasm, even in the face of a declining neighborhood and shrinking congregation. Clarke Peters makes Enoch a likable, if somewhat overzealous character. This helps to heighten the tragedy of the film’s climax, which comes out of nowhere, and brings the film to a disturbing conclusion.
Which is totally not foreshadowed by following the news of the last 20 years
One theme in Red Hook Summer is that of Flik’s obsession with his Ipad, which he brings and uses everywhere. This (I’m assuming) is supposed to lampoon the societal disconnect which occurs when technology invades everyday life, unfortunately it also feels awkwardly shoehorned into the story. Flik’s character is supposed to be naive; but his insistence on using this expensive computer toy in front of gangsters and thieves goes beyond naiveté, it is just stupid. If Flik’s character was likable, perhaps when it is inevitably stolen, the audience would care. But instead it just feels like runtime padding, as the subplot ultimately leads nowhere.
Much of the dialog feels unpolished, even improvised. While this approach can result in naturalistic conversations between people, when handled right, here it often feels stilted, as if the filmed final product is just a dress rehearsal. The younger actors especially, being less experienced, seem particularly lost at times.
There was no reason for Spike Lee to reprise the role of Mookie from Do the Right Thing in this film, other than to spread the word that Mookie appears in the film, hence building critical interest from fans of his earlier work. Mookie’s entire role consists of walking past the camera with a pizza, looking sad, and/or angry.
Imagine this, but somehow even sadder
This isn’t one of Lee’s better films, but it has enough fascinating moments that fans of his work should give it a look.
Take a Drink: when Flik messes with her Ipad
Take a Drink: for every mention of Jesus
Do a Shot: for Old Sad Mookie