Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr We’re living in the grips of a nostalgia boom, and since the ‘80s have cannibalized themselves Hollywood has turned to a new decade to memorialize: the ‘90s. But in watching one of the first to ride this wave of ‘90s nostalgia, Elijah Bynum’s Hot Summer Nights, you might think the ‘90s look a lot like the decade that preceded it. Hot Summer Nights is a wannabe ‘80s teen comedy, with a dash of Scarface, that seems as confused on what it wants to be about as it is which year it’s living in. Despite the continued goodwill established by its leading man, Timothee Chalamet, it’s evident this was released to capitalize on the stans who worship at his feet, and that’s far from a compelling reason to watch this. It’s 1991 in Cape Cod and Daniel Middleton (Chalamet) has been shipped to the land of “townies” and “summerbirds” at the behest of his mother. Since Daniel is neither a local nor wealthy, he struggles to acclimate until he meets Hunter Strawberry (Alex Roe), the town pot dealer. The two soon get into the business of selling weed to locals while Daniel attempts to get close to Cape Cod’s beauty queen, McKayla (Maika Monroe). Hot Summer Nights is in the grand tradition of ‘80s teen sex stories wherein a young white male tries to make some money, nail the girl and generally show that he’s worthy of emulation. This latter point is mimicked in the film’s opening narration, spoken by an unseen 13-year-old boy who’s presumably taken it upon himself to act as the town folklorist. Our narrator deifies everyone, from Daniel’s father who was so manly that “they don’t make them like that anymore” to McKayla, who is presumably so hot young boys are an inch away from killing themselves (and that’s the ones who aren’t said to have died because of her already). Exalting these characters could have been interesting in a Mark-Twain-meets-Less Than Zero way, but the narrator is only there to give us something passing for depth to these characters. Outside of knowing his name, which the narrator says in full with all the reverence of Jesus Christ, there’s little particularly interesting about Daniel, before or after he arrives in Cape Cod. He’s lost his dad, his mother has no way to control him and that’s it. The script never gives Chalamet any motivation, so the actor, talented as he may be, is left with little to do but look pained and lost. He only comes alive once he meets McKayla, and “alive” here means he has something happening to him. Chalamet and Monroe are cute—running in the rain like they’re in a Gap ad—but there’s little passing in the way of chemistry. Interestingly, the movie seems to situate more of a spark between Chalamet and Roe, the latter introduced to Chalamet with a slo-mo wink. Considering this movie was released now to capitalize on Chalamet’s Oscar-nominated performance in Call Me by Your Name this seems intentional. To his credit, Roe has that good-looking bad-boy thing down pat, but the movie just sees him as the ideal for Daniel to aspire to. The film is torn between following Daniel and Hunter’s escapades in the drug trade with the two’s burgeoning romances, with both coming off as trite and sanitized. Despite being R-rated, everything in this movie is done with the look of capturing tween audiences. The only overt sexualization the portrayal of McKayla. Monroe is certainly appealing, but the narrator (and every other boy in town) casts on an eye on her like this is The Virgin Suicides. A fantasy scene presented by the narrator situates McKayla as a Cape Code Lolita rocking short shorts with a penchant for smirking, but most of what we gather about her is through Daniel and Hunter’s fighting over her. Hunter, who we learn is McKayla’s brother, has a strange, obsessive antipathy towards any boy that comes near his sister. There’s a brief moment explaining the backstory of the estranged siblings involving their dead mother, but the thin development leaves the whole triangle feeling like a look at male posturing with Monroe being the tree these two dogs are prepped to pee on. The whole thing culminates with a literal storm brewing because subtlety isn’t this film’s strongpoint. The third act doubles down on the drug plotline, with a laid-back Emory Cohen playing the dealer no one wants to piss off, but it seems like a fever dream the script had. We see Daniel visit a coke dealer (played with maximum weirdness by William Fichtner) who’s read the dealer playbook: strung-out lackies and a nude woman playing piano are this film’s idea of grand guignol. It all comes about as a means of leaving the audience with a shocking finale while simultaneously letting the narrator bemoan how there aren’t any stories worth telling. Hot Summer Nights will appease fans of Chalamet by his presence alone, but this is a movie that plays like a CW-infused take on the nostalgic drug drama. There’s little here you haven’t seen before or lived through. Hot Summer Nights is available on DIRECTV and in theaters July 27.