Set in 1983 Long Island, Summer Days, Summer Nights is a charming slice-of-life coming-of-age dramedy that attempts to replicate the freewheeling filmmaking style of award-winning director Richard Linklater. Purely an ensemble piece through and through, it collects various rising talent, some of whom like Anthony Ramos have blown up significantly since filming commenced. The plot boils down to a group of working-class teens and 20-somethings as they work summer jobs and contemplate their futures. My favorite character to follow was JJ (the adorable Pico Alexander), right on the cusp of adulthood as he lives out his final summer home while juggling work at the Beach Haven Beach Club.
A seemingly random collection of characters that are all loosely connected in one way or another actually provides different flavor and stakes that keeps the film from ever becoming boring. The 100’s Lindsey Morgan plays the club’s parking valet who falls into a fling with JJ—she “doesn’t have time for a boyfriend,” but that does not mean they can’t fool around! His cousin, Terry (MTV’s Scream actor Amadeus Serafini), is in a band and writes a song for his new squeeze Winky (Faking It’s Rita Volk) called “A wink and a Smile.” The story feels a bit aimless as it flips through various milestones of summer, exploring them in clumsy spurts. July 4th weekend, labor day weekend, block parties, and car sex, oh my!
When Summer Days, Summer Nights is good, it is exceptionally so. The chemistry sizzles with young love and in the air and rekindled romance. Anthony Ramos, with long curly hair as Frankie, is a dreamy delight, especially when he goes off on a tangent about how “we had so much sex in this car.” Like most Linklater movies, by the closing of the film, our characters move on to the next stage of their life and on to normalcy. It is incredibly open-ended, so if you find yourself bothered by a massive lack of closure, your gears will indeed be thoroughly ground. Writer/director/star Edwards Burns may have made a Richard Linklater imitation, but he pulls it off with vigor and—important above all else—an endless sense of fun.
Summer Days, Summer Nights is now available on digital platforms for your viewing pleasure.