is a 1995 Drama film directed by Larry Clark and written by Harmony Korine
Leo Fitzpatrick and Justin Pierce star as Telly and Casper, two New York teenagers of around 17. Telly's mission in life is to deflower virgins, referring to himself as the "virgin surgeon"
. His latest sexual conquest has been Jennie (Chloe Sevigny
). The film charts a day in Telly and Casper's lives, as they go about their daily activities of using black slang
, smoking pot, shoplifting, beating up a passerby who crosses them in the park, and attending midnight raves, whilst Jennie and her friend Ruby (Rosario Dawson
) attempt to track them down and give Telly some information of life-and-death importance.
The film was extremely controversial for its frank, unabashed depiction of teen sexuality, deliquency and drug use, landing it an NC-17 rating. It is notable for using untrained actors actually recruited from the street (this was Sevigny and Dawson's debut). Critical reception of it was mixed, with some calling it "a wakeup call to America's youth" and others decrying as nothing more than a glorified exploitation film
bordering on child porn with many scenes done for shock value only. Which is the case with all of Larry Clark's films.
This film provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: It's not that the parents don't care, it's just that they are completely clueless. It is strongly implied that bad/non-existant parenting is the cause of Telly being such a horrible, morally indefensible human being. His mother is depicted as being pregnant, yet smoking at the same time and doesn't ask her son any questions where he goes all day and night, only asking him to "be back tomorrow".
- Adult Fear: This film is pretty much every parents' worst fear about what their sons and daughters do behind their backs: having unprotected sex and getting deadly venereal diseases as a result, drinking, smoking, taking drugs, stealing, even downright murdering somebody, raping someone or getting raped,... At a certain point it does get a bit over the top, especially since the characters all do this in the timespan of only one day...!
- Author Appeal: The film has been criticized for showing real teenagers, some clearly underage, taking drugs on camera and being shown in semi nude and sexual positions. Seeing that Larry Clark also photograps such real life youngsters a lot and all of his other films have similar scenes it's clearly something that interests him.
- Big Applesauce: It takes place in New York City and depicts the city as a haven for debauchery.
- Broken Aesop: While some have praised the movie as a perfect Scare 'Em Straight film, others feel the film exploits actual underage teenagers by having them indulge in alcohol, tobacco and drugs on camera and being depicted in sexual imagery without any considerance for their own health and/or any regrets they might feel about this when they've reached an older age. It remains polarizing today.
- Interestingly enough, for a movie so intent on being realistic, racial intolerance is not a topic in this movie. Yet Telly and his friends do discriminate a homosexual couple.
- Cluster F-Bomb: About 90% of the dialogue in this movie consists of profanity.
- Crapsack World: This cynical movie shows teenage life as dangerous, frightening, shocking and doomed. All of them just live for achieving egotistical kicks and nothing else. And the finale is such a Downer Ending that you might become an advocate for curfew for minors afterwards.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The skateboard scene in the park, where a man is murdered by teens.
- Death by Sex: Not before the end of the movie, but eventually.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Jenny only had unprotected sex once and gets HIV
- Downer Ending: The film ends with Telly, Casper, Jennie and Darcy getting AIDS. Telly's final narration states that without sex he has nothing implying he will further spread the disease. Or that he just will end his life when he finds out. He'll die anyway, so... In real life the movie also had a downer ending. Actor Justin Pierce (Casper) committed suicide only five years after the release of the film, while actor Harold Hunter (playing Harold, one of the skateboarders) died of a drug overdose, six years after that.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: In the next-to-last scene, Jenny is raped while unconscious.
- Drugs Are Bad: The teens freely engage in drugs, not only alcohol and marihuana, but even heroin. Jenny gets raped by Casper while she is in a drug induced sleep. If she hadn't done this she could have probably prevented or stopped Telly having sex with Darcy and especially avoid being raped herself.
- Even Evil Has Standards: As morally corrupt as these teenagers are they do get along fine with people from other races.
- From Bad to Worse: Every time when you think the teens can't behave any worse than the previous scene it gets more shocking. The ending scene is a good example Jenny fails to find Telly in time to tell him he gave her HIV and when she finally discovers him he is already having sex with another unsuspecting virgin, whose first time is extremely painful too, but he doesn't care about her feelings, even when she cries. Jenny doesn't do anything to stop them, as she swallowed some drugs some hours ago and is to dizzy and tired to react. Later on, as she sleeps off her drug effects she gets raped in her coma by Casper too, giving him HIV too.
- Good Bad Girl: Ruby's extensive resume of sexual experience is actually kind of astonishing, but she's really a very sweet girl.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Casper who envies Telly for having more sex than him. When he sees that he scored again he eventually decides to rape Jenny in her sleep.
- Gross-Up Close-Up: The director seems to take delight in depicting teenage love as repulsive and icky as possible, with the extreme closeups of characters' kissing each others' mouths in the opening shot as a typical example. It doesn't help that many teenagers in this movie aren't exactly portrayed as the most likeable or attractive characters. And the notion that Telly has HIV makes it even more Squick.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Telly and Casper.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Apart from drugs teenagers only seem to live for sex in this film.
- Instant Seduction: Occurs not once, but twice, the first time involving Telly talking a young virgin into having sex in literally a minute and a half.
- Irony: Quite a bit.
- Ruby really gets around, but it's Jennie that turns up HIV-positive.
- See Laser-Guided Karma for what happens to the rapist.
- Among Telly's stupid ideas about virgins, he particularly cherishes the idea that the girl will remember him for the rest of her life. Cut to Ruby telling a bunch of giggling girls that she can't even remember the name of her first. About Telly himself, Jennie states flat out that "It wasn't that he took my virginity. It was that he never spoke to me again!"
- Kid-anova: Telly.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Telly, who never cared about the wellbeing of any of his partners and considered AIDS a myth, contracted HIV. The rapist in final scene also contracts this disease.
- Nature Adores a Virgin: Telly is obsessed with the allure of virgins and virginity.
- No Ending: The film ends after all the irrepairable damage by the teens' foolishness has taken place. Yet we never see Jenny telling Telly the big news and how he, Darcy, Casper would react to that.
- One-Word Title: "Kids".
- Out-of-Character Moment: Casper who is portrayed as gullible for drugs, but does give a beggar some money in one scene. Compared to his demonic friend Telly he also comes across as far more sympathetic. Yet in the end even he turns to the dark side by raping a drugged out girl in her sleep.
- Parental Abandonment: The kids' parents are hardly seen or mentioned.
- Rape as Drama: A more complicated version. The victim is an AIDS victim. The subtext would tend to indicate the victim is much more concerned for the rapist.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Implied by the rapist unknowingly contracting HIV.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Director Larry Clark was hooked on heroin himself when he was a teenager and spent many years among his peers having the same kind of debaucherous life in New York City. He gained his first notability as a photographer in the 1970s, taking pictures of teens from broken and dysfunctional families taking drugs and stripping (half) nude on camera. He still spends company in the presence of teenagers today, despite being old enough to be their grandfather at this point. Make of that what you will...
- Really Gets Around: Telly and Ruby.
- Sarcastic Title: The title brings up far more innocent associations than what is depicted in this movie.
- Scare 'Em Straight: Though some critics have argued: more for parents than for the teens themselves.
- Sex Is Evil: All sex depicted in this movie is either semi rape (the boy not caring whether the girl enjoys it, even when she is in pain) or downright rape.
- Smoking Is Not Cool: Telly's mother smokes while being pregnant.
- STD Immunity: At least four characters that we know of either have HIV (Telly, Jenny) or have a serious chance of having contracted it.
- Teens Are Monsters: Well duh. It's a Larry Clark film.
- Time Marches On: New York City as depicted in this film has changed a lot since this movie was made. Major of New York Rudolph Giuliani, who was in charge from 1994 to 2001, oversaw a large clean-up of the city from crime, making the once crime-infested metropolis a lot safer in comparison.
- Unreliable Narrator: Telly is sometimes heard as a voiceover giving his opinions about sex and teenage life in general. Most of what he says is either incorrect, ignorant or claims that can't be verified. For instance: how can he be so sure that all his sex partners are virgins? This also blows up in his face hard as it turns out that he did contract HIV anyway
- Villain Protagonist: Telly, who is everything you don't want your child to be.
- Wild Teen Party: The climax takes place at one of these.