Tuesday, April 29, 2014
"The Wise Kids": coming of age (and out) as a graduating senior in a southern baptist church
“The Wise Kids” (2012, directed by Stephen Cone) puts together the processes of evangelical religion (specifically, here, in a youth group in a Southern Baptist Church near Savannah, GA) and coming of age, particularly for gay men. The result is gentler than what one might expect; but the title tells you that these are pretty level-headed kids. The film could be compared with the musical (but ironically titled) “Southern Baptist Sissies” reviewed here Feb. 19. There’s a play that I could compare the film, popular in many church youth groups, “Wise Guys” (review, drama blog, May 15, 2011, so far never made into a commercial film as far as I know, and that seems surprising).
The film opens as the high schoolers (mostly graduating seniors) are preparing a play about the Crucifixion. There is some clumsiness with the props, but soon we get to know some of the characters, most of all aspiring film student Tim (Tyler Ross) who wants to go to the New School in New York City.
There’s an odd reprise of the Crucifixion, which may be Tim’s dream, where the actor playing Christ bleeds, perhaps from elaborate makeup. The film does show how hand-straps could be used to simulate the nails.
The film is slow-paced and considerate. The youth minister is trying to date one of the less attractive young women in the congregation, and finds he is not up to physical intimacy and will come to terms with his own sexuality. But Tim (does he belong to the “Timo Club”) barrels along, with a lot of momentum, getting everyone to rejoice with him when he gets into film school. There is a scene on the beach where there is a gentle confrontation with his younger brother over sexuality (the brother doesn’t want him photographing him). But later there is a dance (I’m not sure where) with some dirty dancing. The film ends with the kids home for Christmas from their first year of college.
The official site (Wolfe) is here.
The film is available on Netflix instant. The script talks about Savannah, but imdb says the film was shot largely in Charleston, SC (not far away).
Wikipedia attribution link for Savannah overview. I made one visit, in March 1990. Savannah (Mercer House) was also the site of Clint Eastwood’s 1997 film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (WB) with John Cusack and Kevin Spacey, a mystery with a gay subplot. Remember the line, “New York is boring”. Cusack is a visiting NY journalist who works on a murder of a closeted gay man he has befriended.