MY SUMMER AS A GOTH – Review by Carol Cling

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Like its 16-year-old heroine, My Summer as a Goth has some growing up to do.

Suffering from a definite identity crisis, this coming-of-age tale can’t quite decide whether it’s a summer romance, a fish-out-of-water comedy — or an earnest study of a teenager struggling with potentially life-shattering emotions.

My Summer as a Goth opens, appropriately enough, in a cemetery, where high school sophomore Joey Javitts (spirited Natalie Shershow) arranges flowers on a grave.

When a much older passer-by inquires why she’s there, Joey explains, “Dead people don’t ask you what you’re doing all the time.”

She’s really there to commune her recently deceased father — and contemplate her final day of 10th grade without him.

She’ll also be spending her upcoming summer vacation without her novelist mother (Sarah Overman), who’s off on a book tour. Not that Joey minds, considering the palpable hostility between mother and daughter.

Instead, Joey’s off to visit her flaky grandparents (Fayra Reeters, Jonas Israel) — and, while “not exactly thrilled to be hanging out with the old folks,” she reasons, “at least I won’t be here.”

Joey’s summer instantly transforms when she discovers another summer guest in the neighborhood: the endlessly intense Victor (Jack Levis). With with his glam-rock makeup and blacker-than-black attire, Victor appears perpetually ready for his Rocky Horror Picture Show close-up.

Inevitably, instantly, Joey’s smitten. And Victor seems reasonably intrigued, if only by the possibility of transforming Joey into another worshipful acolyte. Besides, it’ll be easy — Joey’s already in the mood to wear black.

The script (by director Tara Johnson-Medinger and Brandon Lee Roberts) follows a familiar pattern: girl meets Goth, girl loses Goth, girl wonders whether Goth is really the one for her. After all, Victor seems more than a tad smug — and is happy to admit it, “if by ‘smug’ you mean awesome.’ “

My Summer as a Goth enthusiastically embraces its comedy of contrasts — as when those cute Goth kids ride a carousel on the Fourth of July. And the screenwriters provide plenty of snarky, flip-lipped quips for the characters to spout.

But the movie also seems wary of exploring deeper issues — notably how Joey’s unspoken, but undeniable, grief complicates her typical teen angst.

As a result, it’s a whole lot less than the sum of its parts — some of which provide mild diversion, but not nearly enough.

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Carol Cling

Carol Cling

Carol Cling served as the Las Vegas Review-Journal's film critic for more than 30 years, reviewing movies and covering movie and TV production in Las Vegas, from Casino to CSI. An honors graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she also has studied film at the American Film Institute and the BBC