Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Certain folks don’t like certain kinds of things.  There are some people who absolutely hate rap music, no matter what it is.  Same could be said for certain people who despise country music.  Movies are no exception either, though films do tend to lack the concise classification of musical genres.  Take my friend Burton, who reviews for this particulars site for instance.  He has a strong distaste for the romantic comedy.  I don’t mind the Rom-Com so much.  As an example, when I woke up and turned on the tele yesterday, ‘You’ve Got Mail’ was playing on HBO.  The first surprise was that the TV wasn’t on the NFL network, ESPN or courtTV as I like to go to sleep watching the ‘Worlds most Insane Videos’ programs they love to show.  But back to ‘You’ve Got Mail’.  I don’t remember liking that movie much when it came out almost 10 years ago, but damn if I couldn’t change the channel.  A fine film that movie.  But back on subject.  You see, I don’t particularly care for the angst ridden suburban teen genre.  Perhaps considering what transpires in our great country with this particular demographic far too often, I should care, but I don’t.  Take a shower, cut our hair, obey your parents, drive your Neon, shut the hell up and quit your freakin’ whining!  Larry Clark’s highly controversial teen angst sex film ‘Ken Park’ deals with suburban kids a notch lower on the social bean pole, but damn if they ain’t still whining.

The title subject of this film, Ken Park, greets us by graphically blowing his brains out at a skate park in the films opening sequence.  Ken’s friend Shawn (James Bullard) narrates his feelings of guilt about that particular event, even though he had nothing to do with it, and then introduces us to his small click never do well slackers.  There’s the afore mentioned Shawn who is having sex with his girlfriends mother, then there’s

Claude (Stephen Jasso) who is borderline physically and sexually abused by his father.  There’s Peaches (Tiffany Limos) who enjoys a little bondage sex and whose father is a religious fanatic, and lastly there’s Tate who is being raised by his grandparents who he despises fiercely.  We pop in and out of the lives of these teens, their friends and there sociopathic lives as if we were voyeurs watching a lurid sideshow.  This is pretty much the film as one life culminates in someway to some shocking conclusion. 

So what makes ‘Ken Park’ so shocking?  Why it’s the sex of course.  And the violence in relation to some of the sex.  Larry Clark is no stranger to controversy with his previous films ‘Bully’ and ‘Kids’ garnering their own fair share of controversial attention, but I doubt they received what ‘Ken Park’ garnered.  I’m not quite sure what the director was attempting to tell me here.  Is he trying to tell me that teens like to have sex?  Well that’s earth shaking news.  But it has to go deeper than that because there is so much pathology in the actions of the characters.  Hell, there’s so much pathology in the actions of the director.  Tate likes to asphyxiate himself and masturbate.  Oh, and murder.  Personally, I could have done without watching Tate jack off for five minutes to woman’s tennis match while restricting his brain of oxygen.  That alone tells us that he’s got issues.  But I REALLY didn’t need to see the camera linger on the ejaculate hanging off Tate’s’ penis for an extra twenty seconds.  What pray tell does THAT represent?  Claude’s dad likes to drink beer. Beer makes you pee. Therefore Claude’s dad pees.  Did I need to see the pee coming out of dudes penis for a virtual eternity?  What did the long stream of piss represent?  Societies sublime neglect at the stream of suburban indignance?  Whatever. 

There’s a funny scene though where the character of Tate is holding the leg of his three legged dog while yelling at the poor creature.  The dog kept nervously looking off camera at what I suppose is his owner as if to ask ‘Yo!  You clowns gonna stop this fool?’  Or at least I thought it was funny.

There’s a lot of imagery which could be deemed shocking in this film.  The violence was faked I suppose, but the sex, performed by actors playing minors, sure wasn’t for the most part, and as such, this film will probably never find any kind of wide distribution.  Hell, pornography isn’t allowed to have adults pretend to be minors and have sex.  This lack of distribution would upset me if thought that Ken Park was any good, deserved to be seen and served any other purpose other than to shock, but I found the whole exercise pointless and artless.  I’ve read some foreign reviewers lament that the shocking subject matter displaying this reality of American teen life will never be seen by the Americans who need to see it most.   Reality?  Yo, foreigners!  Though I’m sure in this huge country there is a man molesting his son, a daughter having bondage sex, a boy screwing his girlfriend’s mother, a crazy teen blowing his head off in public, three teens wrapped in ménage a love trio, and a boy murdering his grandparents, BUT NOT ON THE SAME BLOCK ON THE SAME DAY!  Reality my ass.  Again, this film isn’t speaking to me specifically, and it wasn’t crafted skillfully enough to make care about any of the characters portrayed here.  Perhaps its meaning would be clearer to someone engaged in a similar lifestyle?  Perhaps.

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