This is an Irish movie that was originally titled “The Last of the High Kings”, however, it was renamed “Summer Fling” for the U.S. release. I hate when they change names like that. The original one fit the film better. “Summer Fling” makes you think it’s going to be one of those typical American teen movies, which it is not.
Frankie Griffin (Jared Leto) is a 17 year old Irish boy who lives in Howth, County Dublin, Ireland, and the year is 1977. It’s the end of June which means he has just finished taking his exams and now has to wait until mid-August to find out the results. Frankie is stressing out and has totally convinced himself that he blew his exams. On top of that he really has no idea what he wants to do with his life, other than he would like to travel.
Since he is now free from school and this is his last summer before he has to find work or go to college he wants to make this a summer to remember. There have been two girls he has been eyeing at school, but has never got up the courage to do anything about it. He figures the thing to do is throw a beach party and get them to come to it. However, he seems to be having difficulty getting things rolling. His summer keeps slipping by and he’s not really accomplishing anything he wanted to.
Saying Frankie’s family is slightly eccentric would be putting it mildly. His Da (Gabriel Byrne) is a stage actor with dreams of making it big in the movies. He often goes abroad to work in plays. Even when he is at home with the family he always seems to be “on” and acts in a very dramatic fashion. The kids all seem to be thrilled when he is home.
His Ma (Catherine O’Hara) is not an easy woman to live with. She used to be an actress; however, it seems that she gave it up to stay home with the kids while her husband lives out his dream. You definitely get the sense that she has grown to resent it. She is loud, opinionated and larger than life. She is always going on about how they are pureblood and are descendants from Irish nobility, much to her children’s embarrassment.
Frankie is the oldest of five children. He has two younger brothers and two younger sisters. The only one he seems to be close to is his youngest brother, Noelie, who ended up with brain damage from an illness he had when he was a baby. It’s very sweet how Frankie always looks out for him. He takes Noelie with him most places he goes and is very patient with him. He is also protective of him and will let him sleep with him if he gets scared at night.
Frankie tends to be on the quiet and introspective side, except around his friends. Jared does a wonderful job of playing the emotions that the character is going through. The panic of thinking he has failed his exams, the awkwardness around a girl he likes and the rebellious nature when his ma has pushed him too far. His Irish accents is passable (not the best I’ve ever heard, but far from the worst). The only thing that was a little hard to buy was that he didn’t have any luck with girls. I mean Jared is just too gorgeous; you know girls would be throwing themselves at him.
Some of my favorite scenes (without being too spoilery):
Frankie and his friends are so excited to finally be out of school. As soon as they finish their exams, they run off to a nearby field, take off their school uniforms and light them on fire. They all feel so liberated by their newfound freedom.
Frankie takes a turn on Noelie’s Space Hopper (one of those big bouncy ball things with handles on it). He’s bouncing down the street on it when the two girls he has a crush on pull up right next to him. He is so embarrassed, but is trying to act like he’s not mortified at them seeing him on it.
Frankie and his friend Nelson aren’t old enough to vote in the election, so his ma falsifies documents so that they can. She then forces them to vote and tells them they better vote for her candidate. Frankie doesn’t want to do it, so his way of rebelling is to not actually vote for anyone and write “F*ck You” on the ballet instead. She will never know about it, but it makes him feel better all the same.
Some of my favorite quotes:
Frankie – “Oh God, I’ve ruined my life before it’s even started. They might as well take me out and shoot me.”
Frankie – “When I was a kid, I used to wish for an ordinary family. Sometimes I still do. The only normal one is Noelie, who has permanent brain damage from an illness when he was a baby.”
Frankie – “The rest of them share varying degrees of incurable insanity. It’s amazing I turned out ok.”
Nelson – “Are you sure she’s your ma? If she was your sister, I could really fancy her.”
Frankie – “How come by the time I catch on, it’s always too late? Screwing up is the only thing I’m getting better at.”
Frankie – “What is it about time? Whenever you want it to move quick, it goes slow, whenever you want it to go slow, it gallops.”
Jayne – “You’re an eejit, do you know that?”
Frankie – “Yeah. I know. Thanks.”
Following is additional information about the show that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
I love how after Frankie finally has sex for the first time, he is so excited. He just keeps going on about it and how it would be great if they lived together and could do it whenever they wanted. He ends up kind of freaking Jayne out, so she throws his clothes out her bedroom window and tells him to leave. This means he has to leave by climbing down from the second story while he is naked.
If that isn’t bad enough, the next morning, his ma wakes him up and asks him to come downstairs. When he gets there he finds their priest waiting to talk to him. You see, his ma isn’t happy that he had sex with a protestant and wants the priest to set him straight. It was great how at first Frankie pretended to go along with it and then started on this whole really awkward rant about sex and how he can’t help himself. It was such a funny scene.