How Does It Feel to Know that KIDS Turns 20? Leigh Remembers The Hot Summer of Clark and Korine

Upon hearing that this summer was the 20th anniversary of Kids, I begged Andy for the chance to review it, to see it 20 years later through different eyes.  Much has changed in the last 20 years; movies have changed, the world in which our children grow up in has changed, and I, myself, have changed.  Would this movie that brought up so many emotions for me at 19, change as well?

Writer Harmony Korine and Director Larry Clark altered movie watching in the 90s.  At a time when Tony Scott’s Top Gun and Kevin Smith’s Mallrats where the most prolific movies I had seen, Kids was absolutely mind blowing.  Clark and Korine have often discussed they were just making a movie about life as they saw it on the streets of New York in the early 90s.  A life that was much different than mine in 1995 living in middle America.

The movie follows Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), a sex crazed teenager obsessed with deflowering every virgin in the city and his best friend Casper (Justin Pierce), a beer drinking druggy with seemingly no other purpose in life.  Along the way, the audience is introduced to Jennie (Chloe Sevigny), deflowered earlier in the year by Telly and her friend Ruby (Rosario Dawson). The girls decide to get HIV tested.  Jennie, who has only had sex with Telly, ends up testing positive and spends the rest of the movie (which takes place in just one day) trying to find Telly to tell him, while Telly spends his day trying to deflower innocent children.

In this one day we see these kids, who are literally just kids, having sex with numerous people, stealing alcohol, taking more drugs than I knew were available, drinking to the point of passing out, raping friends, and literally almost beating a man to death with a skateboard.  To say this movie is disturbing is an understatement.

I remember watching this movie at 19 in my college dorm room, thinking my parents would literally keel over if they knew.  I was freshly out on my own, I myself was a kid making mistakes, experiencing new things, and having fun while doing it all.  And at 19 this movie scared the hell out of me.  I could not comprehend people behaving this way, treating other humans like used trashed.  But that being said, I knew that Kids would change the way I saw movies.

The writing is absolutely flawless, these ARE just teenagers, as teenagers would speak to each other.  Korine was writing what he knew, what he heard on the streets.  Clark was absolutely brilliant with his new and creative directing style.  The entire movie is shot with the focus only on the kids.  We never see New York City as a city, we rarely see an adult.  The acting is fresh and new.  These ‘actors’ were brand new to the acting scene, which completely made the movie even more believable.  These kids WERE just kids on the streets of New York. Kids is one of those rare movies: while completely disturbing, it is brilliant.  I wanted to throw up while watching it, but saw the beauty in it as well.

It is a social commentary that goes across time, across generations.  It is a movie that can’t not be forgotten, that must be talked about.  And 20 years later, it is still completely relevant and very real.  It is a movie that has to be seen.  However, once every 20 years is probably enough!

Check out even more of Leigh Phillips at @LeighEharv
How Does It Feel to Know that KIDS Turns 20? Leigh Remembers The Hot Summer of Clark and Korine

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