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Not Terrible, But It Could Have Been Better
on May 7, 2007
Like many of the other reviewers, I saw this film under another title (LAST OF THE HIGH KINGS) and the other title was a bit more appropriate. SUMMER FLING gives the impression that the film is about a summer romance, and while a "fling" does occur in the film, it's not the major focal point, though perhaps it should be. Actually, it was somewhat difficult determining the film's focal point or whether it was a comedy with some dramatic moments or a drama with a few comedic references.
We meet in the film a young man named Frankie (Jared Leto) who has just finished taking exams which will determine his future. In Ireland grades on exams determine college choices and ultimately career, so this is a major burden for the seemingly naturally unmotivated young man. Rather than fret about the future, he decides to spend the summer avoiding the potential of limited opportunities and has a number of escapades with his friends. Frankie's offbeat friends, while not troublemakers, are going nowhere fast. We also see Frankie have a number of interactions with his family. He's from an eccentric family. His father is a traveling actor and his mother (played by Catherine O'Hara), once a famous stage personality, is at home raising the rather odd mix of children Frankie has as siblings. Frankie's mother wants him to take an interest in his heritage, claiming the family stems from Irish royalty. She vehemently hates Protestants even though as Frankie rightly claims, many of her heroes are Protestant. Frankie discovers the opposite sex, but it is with a Protestant and member of the Labor Party, neither of which please mother or the local priest. He also misses the opportunity to find first love with an American with Irish ancestry played by Christina Ricci.
The film may be guilty of having too many potentially great plotlines that could make a viewer want more, but ultimately the viewer gets less. Frankie's mother/son conflict could have been interesting, but instead it was rather one dimensional. As it stands, the mother is just an odd duck, Frankie a teen suffering under her control, but both are potentially so rich. The friends could be an interesting lot, but we really never meet them, or at least we don't get to know them with any degree of depth. The political and religious conflicts, so much a part of Ireland in 1977 touch the film, but again not with any depth. If the film had one major plotline: his attraction to a Protestant Labor Party member and the Irish American girl who love shim but he spurns would have been the strongest and most compelling story, with the other side plots story lines adding flavor, it would have made it a stronger film. Overall SUMMER FLING is not terrible, it just could have been better.