Ken Park Movie Review
Clark teams up with co-director Ed Lachman (lauded cinematographer of Far From Heaven) and his bad-boy Kids screenwriter Harmony Korine to tell us that young people are the most tension-filled, powder keg group in the country. Witness the film's opening credits: the title teen (red-haired Adam Chubbuck) skateboards through a suburban town, enters his local skate park, and puts a bullet through his own head. Roll movie.
Clark, Lachman, and Korine use this brutal intro as a segue to introduce the teens in Ken Park's loose circle -- an interesting story device considering none of the kids mentions Ken until the final sequence, and even then it's with a matter-of-fact detachment.
Shawn (James Bullard), who might have fit into Kids comfortably, sweetly expresses love to his little brother before school, and then hustles next door to perform oral sex on a woman more than twice his age. Peaches (sexpot-to-be Tiffany Limos) lives with her esteem-lacking, Bible-thumping dad. Claude (Stephen Jasso) suffers the blind-rage brutality of his alpha-male father. The mentally troubled Tate (James Ransone) verbally abuses his grandparents, with whom he lives, ranting madly about the misguided love and affection they provide.
In the midst of these generally unconnected stories lies the reason Ken Park hasn't been released in the U.S., and was banned in Australia: graphic sex acts, some authentic, ranging from that oral romp to nauseating incest to disturbing masturbation. Clark shows us penises with the broad ease that some equally leering directors display women's breasts. And while there is a daring, revealing truth to the sex, there is also an odd level of peek-a-boo gratuitousness that acts as shock for shock's sake.
This does nothing but deny the film's tender, insightful moments and detract from what little story cohesiveness exists. In fact, one entire chapter of the film (that of the psychotic Tate) seems unnecessary, stuffed in just for a grotesque moment of auto-asphyxiation and a pointless ejaculation shot. Even with that gaping problem, Clark still flexes a fine sense of danger, as he has in previous films.
Watching Ken Park feels awkward, and not necessarily the way Clark intended; the sense comes more from appreciating Clark's boldness and tension while resenting his level of overdoing it all. But like the more insightful Kids and the scorching Bully, Ken Park leads viewers, fans, and detractors to wonder, "What the hell is this guy doing?"