So I do love hating on the vacuous, narcissistic youth of today, and I do love vicious satires, no matter how broad, and I love wild tales of dim-witted low-lifes getting in way over their heads. So out of the blue comes King Kelly, which the review in the New York Times promised would have me "doubled over in guilty guffaws," which it did, and more!
This is a "found footage" movie shot entirely on cellphone, a format that might give one pause, but turns out to be not annoying (or hard to see) at all. We open with Kelly, young and pretty girl of presumably eighteen (though we are never told and don't ask) masturbating on webcam for those who log in to watch her, and we watch the comments, and credits, from her admirers flood in. It opens the movie with a hilarious, appropriate bang as the comments, and little animated gifs and icons that accompany them, are both funny and offer a big 'WTF?' as to what is happening in a culture where this goes on. So Kelly is gearing up for the launch of her own website, created by boyfriend Ryan, who she is dating only so he'll make the site for her. Her girlfriend Jordan abets her, and between the two of them they record every moment of their lives on cellphones. It's hard to tell where this is happening, Jersey or Long Island or somewhere not too far from New York.
Kelly's family reveals themselves as weary of her constant filming. It is the Fourth of July, and her father's 60th birthday, which Kelly couldn't care less about. In the morning, Ryan comes to take possession of Kelly's car, which both of them believe is rightfully theirs, since each of them "paid more than half for it." For a while, Kelly calls everyone she knows, telling them that they "have to give me a ride" to get her car back. Soon we learn that there is a package of drugs in the back, which Kelly thinks are just prescription pills. She soon finds out that no, actually it's a ton of heroin, and if the drugs are not found and delivered, some really bad people will come and do some really bad things. Whether Kelly actually comprehends or processes the danger of this is open to question, as she treats everything and everyone as a joke, unless it inconveniences her. When she is feeling sad, she lifts up her camera and takes video of herself making sad faces. When she's feeling confident, she takes video of herself making sexy faces, pursing her lips and rubs her thumb over them. The writing is good enough to believe that this is a conscious allusion to Breathless.
So the first half is Kelly confined to her neighborhood, attending a wild teen house party in which all the kids act so idiotically it will make you fear for the future of society, and Kelly and Jordan obtain a ton of drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy and K, which they happily imbibe as they set off for Staten Island to reclaim the car. The second half is their wild night, during which they meet up with a man who watches Kelly on her site, and things go from wild to crazy to psychotic, like Adventures in Babysitting on bath salts. Because of this, everything I tell you from now on will be a spoiler, so if you want to see the movie you should stop now, trusting that the surprises this film has in store are worth the wait.
SPOILERS > > >
So Kelly is acting like a sugared-up six-year-old at her Dad's birthday party, when she runs afoul of her aunt, who reveals her moneymaking hobby to her ignorant parents. Next thing you know, she is in Jordan's car, saying that she may not be able to go home again. They decide to go to a party, where the kids are doing things like pulling out the couch and throwing it on the bonfire. She goes into a bathroom with Jordan's boyfriend, where she is caught by Jordan, but "apologizes" by saying "Okay, I'm a slut. Does that make you happy?" Because anyone who holds Kelly responsible for anything she does is just being SUCH a dick. She convinces Jordan to drive her to Staten Island to retrieve her car. She took a bag of drugs from Jordan's boyfriend, and they two of them do a bunch of coke and ecstasy, then stop at a liquor store and get a bottle of vodka, which they sip straight. Next thing you know, Jordan drives right off the road. It's actually quite a shock. The car is ruined, but Kelly says "Holy shit, we just had an accident! But we're totally fine--'cause we RULE!"
So they decide to call Poo Bare, Kelly's biggest fan on her site, rumored to be a state trooper. Kelly says "He sends me like weird necklaces and shit," to which Jordan responds "Ewww!" He shows up, he is indeed a state trooper, and he alone grasps the gravity of the situation... until Kelly starts letting her hand wander into his crotch. You know that the rest of the movie is heading into the red zone when, after much protestation, he finally agrees to do "one line" of coke. From there, things go insane, and I wouldn't dare spoil all your fun by telling you what happens.
< < < SPOILERS END
There's still about thirty minutes of movie left by that point, and it hits the sweet spot between hilarious and genuinely disturbing. There were a lot of turns I did not expect and the film is content to leave the characters in a very unresolved place, which is fine with me. We have no idea what might happen to them an hour after the film ends, let alone the next day. The only area where I feel I might not be able to judge this movie accurately would be when it comes to state trooper Poo Bare, whom I think Kelly is supposed to view as gross and lecherous and old, and a serious debasement to be with, while to my perverted mind he pretty much looked like Mr. Right.
Ah, what a nice feeling to leave the theater saying "That was AMAZING!" Yeah, it was a super good time, hilarious but not stupid, social satire that hits you right over the head yet is brazenly fun about it, a movie about a wild night that is genuinely wild, takes unexpected turns and has its characters in real mortal peril, is both funny and also really disturbing, and doesn't care to wrap things up in a pretty package where people learn valuable life lessons and go on to make a contribution to society.
As I said, for a film shot on cellphones, it was amazingly watchable. The conceit of the girls filming everything is called out several times, but is part of their characters--nothing is real unless it is filmed. The girls themselves aren't real--only their images are. Thus when Kelly feels sad, she takes video of herself looking sad. And despite what I said about the movie hitting you over the head, it actually moves too fast for you to sit there absorbing important points. The script is good--the girls need to be consistent in their total vacuous narcissism--and all the performances are right on, with no one betraying a hint of self-awareness that would deflate the entire thing. This is the second movie this month, after Starlet, that has two female characters of limited intelligence who need to perform with zero self-consciousness, and who make off with the gold. Of course, this movie makes Starlet look like Steel Magnolias on the feel-good scale.
So, a total winner. I can see this becoming a sleeper hit. Take a bunch of friends and a hint of booze, and I guarantee all a good time. Or, just go by yourself and sit snickering in the dark at all the idiocy out there.
Yes! It's a hilarious, disturbing blast!