Beach Rats: Coming of Age in NYC
It has been roughly a year since Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight stole the hearts of filmgoers when it was released. The tender, poignant story about a Miami youth finding himself eventually ended up winning the Oscar for Best Picture. On the heels of that success, Beach Rats bows this summer. Director Eliza Hittman’s film is a coming-of-age story of a young Brooklyn man that features Coney Island as an important character. Coney Island sets a summery mood for this tale to be told.
Beach Rats follows Frankie, an older teenager, aimlessly living his life on the outskirts of Brooklyn. He has a group of guy friends that epitomize the machismo “bro” culture widely seen in NYC outer boroughs. Catcalling women, crude public conversation, shirtless musculature. This is all par for the summer as Frankie meets and starts dating Simone, a pretty, contemplative young woman he meets while out. They have great moments together, but Frankie isn’t quite comfortable with the situation means.
Capturing the scenery for this story is done to great effect. Close shots and great colors tell an intimate tale. Every expression and body close-up shows a raw, animalistic nature that becomes very necessary. Because Frankie has a secret: at night, he cruises the internet for gay hookup sites and meets men for random escapades, sometimes in public places. All of these questions arise in his head. What is sexuality? What is masculinity? Do you have to be one way? He is torn because he and his friends are on the prowl for women in the daytime, while he seduces men at night.
The movie is beautifully made, and has a powerful climax as Frankie’s two worlds collide. Beach Rats is a story that resonates and shows a vulnerability that I think is just now entering our complex male characters.
Beach Rats is now playing in select theaters.
By Lenz Pierre-Lys