Plot: Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is nineteen and has no real direction in his life, he just hangs out with his friends and deals drugs, to fund his social activities. He and his friends spend a lot of time at the beach and playing handball, as well as talking about pursuing girls. While Frankie feels at home within his circle of friends, he also knows he must keep a certain part of himself hidden, as he struggles with his own sexual identity and desires. At night, he visits gay chat sites and even meets up with strangers from the site, to engage in sexual release. But he feels conflicted about what he does and has no intention of revealing his sexual confusion to anyone, as those around him don’t seem to be open to that sort of revelation. He soon meets a young girl and begins a relationship, but he is a passive partner and just seems to go through the motions, while still meeting up with men in the shadows.
Entertainment Value: This is a dark, gritty, and very personal take on the coming of age, sexual exploration narrative, shot almost in a documentary style that makes it feel like we are watching real life unfold before us. A lot of films have been made about gay characters struggling with being homosexual and the prospect of coming out, but Frankie is a unique presence, even within this genre. He wants to be with men and the sexual contact with other males is vital to his mental health, but so is not being gay and keeping up his outward appearance of being straight. He is desperate to be honest and open, but also seems driven to not only protect his secret, but accept whatever negative consequences his homosexual encounters might involve. Frankie isn’t a character that is easy to connect with, but he is an interesting one and Harris Dickinson’s performance here is excellent. He is able to play both sides of Frankie’s persona with ease, which helps anchor the movie. Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, and Neal Huff also turn in more than solid work here. I found Beach Rats to be a well crafted, well performed movie that presents a complicated scenario in a dark, believable fashion.
The movie has a lot of male nudity, full frontal and otherwise. The sex scenes aren’t graphic per se, but are presented in a realistic fashion and that involves penis shots and dangling balls. A quick topless scene is the lone female nakedness, but as I said, a good amount of male nudity is involved. In truth however, the movie is more about desire and longing than the actual sex, so there isn’t a wealth of sexy times. No blood, as the movie doesn’t have much violence, just an ever building sense of dread of what could happen. The movie isn’t driven by dialogue, but what is here is well written, just not all that memorable or quotable. So don’t be discouraged by the low score, as this has good dialogue, it just isn’t the kind of stuff we award points for here. The movie takes a grounded, almost documentary stylistic approach, so the craziness here is kept to a minimum, which helps keep that realism intact.
Overall Insanity: 0/10