Summer ’03 by Becca Gleason is a hilarious movie with as much emotional depth as comedic. It’s raw, awkward, very real, and simply a good story.
I missed SXSW this year but I did make it last year. I always try to watch out for the movies I liked the most to see when (if) they get distribution. Somehow, I missed that Summer ’03 hit Amazon in January but it’s definitely not too late to bring your attention to it.
There were four films that I rated 4.5/5 or higher at SXSW 2018 and Summer ’03 was one of them. Two of the other films are also available by the way. First Match was released on Netflix not long after the premiere, and Jinn was released on Amazon Prime late last year. It was completely unintentional but these three films had many things in common. Female leads, a woman in the director’s chair, and they are all coming of age stories.
In Summer ’03, Jamie (Joey King) is living “one of the most memorable summers of her life.” It begins as she goes to visit her grandmother on her death bed and grandma decides to tell her the shocking keys to life. Grandma goes on to share devastating secrets with the rest of the family as well and throws the entire family into disarray. The rest of the movie shows how the family copes with grandma’s death and the aftermath of all of the family secrets she revealed, while Jamie deals with typical 16 year-old problems on top of it.
Summer ’03 is hilarious and very real. There are definitely some very cringeworthy moments which I usually don’t like but it works here. I also love that its a movie with a female lead and director. I definitely cried during this movie but I’m not sure if it was the emotions or from laughter.
Joey King: At the time of the movie I did not know who Joey King was (to the point that I sat beside her during the screening and didn’t even realize it.) She played the heck out of this role however. A girl who wants to be more mature than she really is and is navigating the world during a very confusing time in her life. The tagline “growing up, one mistake at a time” is perfect. She plays the outwardly confident and inwardly confused girl to a tee. I’m checking now and stunned to see that she is just 19 years old but she has been acting since she was 4. She is definitely poised for greatness.
Paul Scheer and Andrea Savage: Scheer (The League) and Savage (Veep, Step Brothers) play the parents in Summer ’03 and they are both hilarious throughout. Even in the somewhat serious moments, the way they handle them will make you laugh either through relating or because of the craziness. When I tell you grandma dropped family secrets I do mean the biggest of secrets. Life altering secrets for Scheer’s Ned Winkle.
I’ve mentioned that Summer ’03 is funny but I also mentioned that the emotional content may or may not have induced tears. Grandma’s secrets are displayed humorously but when you think about the implications on a real world stage it changes the mood. While the movie does make comedy out of the different family members dealing with the news they’ve been given, it does also bring you the real effects. This is done in great balance and I personally appreciated it because life is never completely humorous or completely dark. Coming from a family of people who make light of serious situations to cope, I understood the family not needing to spend the duration of the film crying and moping.
Near the end of the film, as resolution comes for the characters, everyone has been on a journey of some sort.
As I do with most of my reviews I don’t want to say too much. My goal is to say enough to let you know if you should or shouldn’t watch the movie. I am admittedly awkward about sexual content in films. Mostly because my parents used to watch movies with sex scenes with me as a child and would make me cover my eyes. I believe I’m conditioned in some way to see it as voyeuristic. However, this movie was so good I was only slightly bothered by the sexual content. There is no actual nudity but different acts are shown and discussed throughout. You’ll get the gist within the first 5-10 minutes of the movie.
If this is not an issue for you, I feel confident in recommending Summer ’03 to anyone.
PS: First Match is a story about a young woman in foster care who tries to connect to her ex-con father through the sport he loves and features two of my favorite actors in Yahya Mateen, II and Colman Domingo (still can’t believe I got to interview him.) It was tied with Summer ’03 as my only 5/5 movies. (NETFLIX)
Jinn is the story of a young woman trying to accept that her mother is converting to Islam and features Simone Missick as that mother. It’s a great look into what being a Muslim in America is really like. I’m always up for an eye opening film. (AMAZON)
(I want you to watch all of these movies or I wouldn’t be talking about them. DO IT!)