Derek Winnert

Kids *** (1995, Leo Fitzpatrick, Chloë Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, Justin Pierce) – Classic Movie Review 1370


Written by Harmony Korine, director Larry Clark’s dark and disturbing 1995 film is highly controversial and gained itself a lot of notoriety. It has its good points as a bold and vibrant piece of Nineties low-budget film-making, but it’s a generally tedious, sordid and dispiriting tale of the road to ruin among New York’s teen set. It follows a day in the life of one group of teens going round New York City skating, drinking, smoking and deflowering as many virgins as possible.

In its story by Larry Clark and Jim Lewis, Manhattan teenage boys go shoplifting, get high, beat up a stranger, have sex with pubescent virgins and enjoy orgies – and some kids end up HIV positive. It bangs away on a relentlessly single note and after the first half-hour is repetitive and rambling. And it would be hard to say it’s not exploitative.


However this real-seeming film has an great immediacy and impact and is undoubtedly cannily made by Clark, who does well with his all non-professional cast and documentary style with supposedly improvised dialogue, though the writing, while strong in mid-90s street slang and ‘now’ vibrancy, shows a lack of experience in underwritten characters and meandering, muddled storylines.


The main character, 16-year-old Telly, the ‘Virgin Surgeon’ (Leo Fitzpatrick), who at the beginning of the film is deflowering a 13-year-old girl, is so unappealing that the film tends to lose all sympathy. After sex, Telly brags to his buddy Casper (Justin Pierce): ‘Virgins I love ’em, no diseases just pure pleasure.’


The moral outcry against it is odd considering its clear-cut (not to say lecturing) moralistic tone and finger-wagging anti-sex viewpoint, since the wages of sin indeed are portrayed as death here, though the sight (or even idea) of youngsters having sex seems to be enough to send rightists on the rampage.

You wouldn’t think sex could be this boring, would you?

I know it’s called Kids, but where the heck are the adults? The nervous British censors hacked it by a minute before grudgingly giving it an 18 certificate.


Music by The Beastie Boys. Justin Pierce, Chloë Sevigny (as Jenny) and Rosario Dawson (as Ruby)also star. Sevigny and Dawson have gone on to successful professional careers.

The Village Voice called it as masterpiece and Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up, but it comes with a warning on the tin: ‘This critically acclaimed film is for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is advised.’

© Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Movie Review 1370

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