Following a group of dysfunctional teenagers, Ken Park is another polarizing Larry Clark movie. The first one was Kids, a controversial story about a group of teenagers in New York City doing all kinds of stuff. It’s hard to watch movies featuring teenagers doing drugs, suffering, or inflicting abuse, without having any kind of reaction. Clark approaches subjects of abuse, sexual awakening, and just pure fucking life from a different perspective. He decides to just show what’s going on and what’s going on is incredibly complex. So complex that it’s hard to morally wrap your head around it. And this is what makes the whole thing “provocative”.
Especially when you consider how much nudity there is. And there’s a lot of nudity. I mean fifteen minutes in and we get our first sexually explicit scene, making Ken Park basically a soft-core porn movie. And the ending is, well, you’ll have to see it to believe it. Mind you that most of the population watches pornography on the internet and we all agree on that.
There are four elements here: controversial story, controversial visuals, reaction – it’s a trick, reaction – it’s real. Both of the reactions are happening at the same time and both of them are valid. You cannot talk about sex properly without taking into account the intense emotions and visual stimuli. Both these elements are present in reality too. Now that we cleared that up a bit, we can move forward with the review of this strange coming-of-age movie. It shows what’s currently happening in America, where a lot of teenagers are growing up all on their own. The old system of values has dissolved and we have nothing to replace them. However, this is a common theme in human society and it’s been happening for a long time. And will be happening again.
Ken Park is a movie about five teenagers going through some very difficult periods in their lives. Some of them are being sexually abused by their parents, some of them are abusing someone else, but all of them are generally fucked up. We witness these events and the impact they’re having on our characters.
No one fucks you up like your own family. Ken Park tries to show us what’s going on there, without explanations why. This is what bothers people, things are not explained in the usual, mainstream style cinema where you have clear conclusions. What you are left after this movie is the knowledge that these fucked up things are happening all over the world right now. And will be happening in the future. Our inability to fix the characters in the movie or in real life is truly frightening. So, it’s easy to say: well this is just emotional masturbation and I don’t like that. It wasn’t Larry’s responsibility to figure out a solution for all this shit.
Another thing you need to consider about Ken Park is that it might not be the right movie for you but it might be perfect for someone else. Especially young people going through some stuff. The first thing you should know is that there’s always hope. As long as you’re breathing you can get out of this situation and your life can change. It can change so drastically that you will feel like that person was someone entirely else. On the practical stuff, I hate giving advice but I guess any advice is better than no advice. So, first thing is to find out exactly what’s going on. Ask the question why to every element of your life and don’t get bogged down in overthinking. Just get a broad overview of the situation.
Next up, look for people with similar problems on the internet and how they got out of them. These don’t have to be exactly the same situations but just conceptually the same. If going to the army is going to get you out of that crappy town or help you stop using heavy drugs, then do it. Be mindful of what you’re doing and just keep waking up from your own experience. Don’t get caught up in it. And over time, things will become easier and easier. And now for the parents. You should know that these things do happen and that that boomer attitude of distance and toughening up is wrong. You should be able to figure these things on your own. Finally, if you’re looking for something similar check out Mysterious Skin, Trust and Gummo.
Directors: Larry Clark, Edward Lachman
Writers: Harmony Korine, Larry Clark
Cast: Adam Chubbuck, Eddie Daniels, Wade Williams, Tiffany Limos, Eddie Daniels
Fun Facts: The screenplay is based on newspaper clippings, tabloid television stories and Larry Clark’s diaries.