11 year-olds Daisy (Lia Barnett, who resembles a young Julianna Margulies), Lola (Sanai Victoria), Dina (Madalen Mills) and Mari (Eden Grace Redfield) are facing their last weekend together before the start of middle school which will see Dina parting ways for a Catholic education. When a visit to Terabithia (after the well known YA novel and movie), the shrine they’ve created from a small tree, turns horrific, the girls seize upon it as a mystery to unravel, a mystery that guides them into their futures in “Summering.”
Laura's Review: C
Cowriter (with Benjamin Percy)/director James Ponsoldt ("The Spectacular Now," "The Circle") noticed that most of the books and movies he enjoyed featured only male protagonists and became determined to create something different for his daughter. His cowriter, Percy, had seen his own daughter begin writing a revisionist female perspective on ‘The Hobbit,’ and so the two crafted a female buddy coming-of-age tale indebted to “Stand by Me.” But while Daisy’s plot line has a strong emotional through line, the movie itself is wispy, like an after school special given an indie filmmaker’s special sauce.
Each of the girls is partially drawn via her relationship to her mother (the only father we see is one who has left, returning at a crucial moment only to leave again). Daisy’s mom Laura (Lake Bell) has checked out, a local policewoman drowning her troubles in booze. Supernaturally inclined Lola’s mother Karna (Trump lip syncer extraordinaire Sarah Cooper) is a creative who is painting her daughter’s aura. 'CSI' obsessive Dina’s mom Joy (Ashley Madekwe) is an over protective worrier. Mari must broker skipping Sunday Mass with religious mom Stacie (Megan Mullally).
Daisy’s opening thoughts on how the last days of August are like the lingering effects of fireworks, something spectacular which has begun to fade, are a good reflection of a film more akin to feeling than story. When the girls discover a dead man in a suit face down in the dirt, they decide to tell no one, even as Mari insists on notifying police. Dina finds a clue in a matchbook while Lola’s Dark Web search turns up the address of a local storage unit. The girls begin to feel as if they are haunted by the man they learn is named Mahone and while they gather to conduct a séance their moms, tipped off by that matchbook’s (female) bartender when the girls show up there, bond as they track them down.
Ponsoldt’s film is cast in golden glows and grey shadows, adorned with the trinkets hung on a tree or gathered in a ritualistic burial, but the four girls at the center of “Summering” are not equally compelling and many of their exploits seem to trail off into the ether. He wraps his film with Taylor Swift’s ‘Seven,’ its lyrics encapsulating his sentiments better than he has. “Summering” is a nice little film which will perhaps best be enjoyed by audiences the age of its protagonists.
Robin's Review: C
It is the last days summer for the four BFFs before they enter middle school. With no deeds to do or promises to keep, they are on their own without a care. They head to their secret spot called Terabithia but, once they arrive, they find the body of a dead man and need to solve the mystery on their own in "Summering."
Four kids off on a summer adventure and they find a deceased body. Where have I heard that story before? Of course, the obvious, hit-you-over-the-head answer is Rob Reiner's 1986 adaption of a Stephen King novella, The Body, called "Stand By Me." But, that one sentence is the only direct similarity to the 80s classic.
Director and co-writer James Ponsoldt (with co-scribe Benjamin Percy) start their coming-of-age story just like "Stand By Me." Similarities end there as the quartet of BFFs – Daisy (Lia Barnett), Lola (Sanai Victoria), Dina (Madalen Mills) and Mari (Eden Grace Redfield) – defy logic by NOT reporting the dead man to the police. Only one, Mari, even wanted to do the right thing and call the cops.
Instead, the body becomes their secret as they evade talking to their moms about anything, causing all to worry (for good reason, it turns out). As the girls wend their way through the woods on their new adventure, they talk about all sorts of things – what middle school will bring, the merits of walking backwards, time travel, what their last weekend as "kids" means. All deep stuff for the children and, then, we have their gruesome discovery. This is where the story dovetails out in too many directions, none of them fully explored.
Part of the problem I have is with the dialog of the kids. For 12 year olds, they all punch way above their weight with intellectual discussions of life and death. One review I read complained about the lack of the girls' screaming – something that one would notice if ever around pre-teen girls, which I was teaching swimming. These young ladies also show an emotional stability that the adults in the movie seem to lack.
While the girls do their characters well enough (though none are exceptional) as we get to know them, the parents are two-dimensional only and mostly background. And, while the "mystery" of the dead man's identity is revealed, it, like the rest of the many stories begun, is only partially explored. I did not buy it.
Bleecker Street releases "Summering" in theaters on 8/12/22.