Thursday, November 14, 2013

Indian Summer (1985)

Indian Summer"Indian Summer" is a wonderful film saluting "the Golden Era" of Camp Tamakwa (a real camp in the Canadian/New York wilderness), but it's also about reconnecting with youth, friends, love and nature. Uncle Lou (Alan Arkin), Camp Tamakwa's camp supervisor for many years, invites campers from "the Golden Era" (the early to mid 1970s) as a reunion of sorts, and a group of friends and ex-campers make the trek back to the woods and their youth. Matt (Vincent Spano) and Kelly (Julie Warner) are on vacation to "work on their marriage;" Matt's having a mid-life crisis, and Kelly just wants to know where she stands. Jennifer (Elizabeth Perkins) is Matt's ex-camp-girlfriend and Kelly's best friend, swept away by the nostalgia of camp. Brad (Kevin Pollack) is Matt's cousin, business partner, King of the Shreks (camp pranks), and a constant commentator of how small everything's gotten. Beth (Diane Lane) is a ex-camp tomboy, whose husband Rick recently died. Jack (Bill Paxton), Rick's best friend, was expelled from camp by Uncle Lou long ago, but still rated an invitation. Jamie (Matt Craven) never really grew up, and brought his young fiance Gwen (Kimberley Williams) up for a week of fun & games. Helping Uncle Lou out is the camp maintenence man, Stick (Sam Raimi, taking a hilarious step from behind the camera). Through the week, these friends reconnect, relive camp memories (first kiss), pulling camp gags (short-sheeting, hand-in-warm-water, etc.), participating in camp activities (the Tamakwa-thon), and working out their various problems. Over these precedings looms the prospect of Uncle Lou closing the camp for good. Everyone does an admirable job; you can actually feel their joy and pain. The photography is beautiful; the washed-out opening credits give way to the awesome colors of the woods in early autumn. The DVD edition says fullscreen, but is thankfully, and deservingly, in WIDESCREEN. This is a funny, touching film filled with the ongoing process of 'growing pains', and it's a special tribute for 'campers' and ex-campers alike. Pack your gear, it's definitely worth the trip.

"Indian Summer" isn't the sort of film I normally watch. A light comedy about the innocence of childhood contrasted with the problems of adulthood, the film engages in deep sentimentality on a regular basis. I am rarely suckered in by sappy, syrupy movies. "Indian Summer" is different; I first saw the film on cable back in the early 1990s and quickly learned to like its ensemble cast, wonderful scenery, and funny moments. Since I usually watch horror films, the irony of viewing a movie set at a summer camp where no one expires at the hands of a machete wielding madman still makes me chuckle. When I stumbled over a DVD version of "Indian Summer" recently, I knew I had to revisit the movie. I suspected I wouldn't enjoy it as much as I did ten years ago. I was wrong. The movie resonates even more deeply because I am ten years older than when I first saw it. I never went to summer camp as a child, except for a weekend stay as part of a sixth grade project, but I can completely identify with many of the movie's themes nonetheless. I think most of us tend to idealize memories of our childhood even if the recollections aren't as poignant as we would like to think. "Indian Summer" captures perfectly this tendency and throws it back at you with a few laughs.

The owner of Camp Tamakwa, "Uncle" Lou Handler (Alan Arkin), has finally decided to sell his summer camp and retire. He feels that the kids today don't identify with him like they once did, so he wants to move on. Before he sells, though, he decides to hold a reunion at the camp and invite as many of his former guests as he can. Only seven show up: Jamie Ross (Matt Craven), Beth Warden (Diane Lane), Jack Belston (Bill Paxton), Jennifer Morton (Elizabeth Perkins), Brad Berman (Kevin Pollack), Matthew Berman (Vincent Spano), and Kelly Berman (Jennifer Warner). Ross brings along his young girlfriend Gwen Daugherty (Kimberly Williams), which brings the total to eight. All seven of these people are now in their thirties, with busy lives in the city and a host of adult problems. For example, Brad and Matthew Berman run a clothing company, but Matt wants out so he can pursue his dream of becoming an artist. His wife Kelly, whom he met at the camp as a child, has issues with Matt that could very well lead to divorce. Beth Warden's husband recently passed away, so she has serious recovery issues with which to deal. Jamie Ross is an arrogant dolt that treats women as objects, perhaps due to some inferiority issues and a fear of growing older. Jennifer Morton is the chain-smoking cynic who has yet to find a husband. And Jack Belston was the one kid kicked out of camp for an unspecified incident, and whose life has since been one long downward spiral.

Camp Tamakwa might not heal all wounds, but it will fix many a problem. As Uncle Lou runs the adults through the daily routine of summer camp, such as sailing, swimming tests, hikes, boxing, and foot races, the old identities of childhood start to reassert themselves. The group complains about the lousy food, play practical jokes on one another (called "shrecks," for some reason), and generally reconnect with the important things in life. Gradually, problems that seemed insurmountable and best left unsaid in the city come out at Tamakwa. We discover why Lou kicked Belston out of camp, and see the issue resolved. Brad and Matt hash out their business problems, and Kelly learns to stand up to her husband in the boxing ring. Beth learns to face the death of her loved one head on with a little help from Jack Belston. Gwen Daugherty, although not a member of the Tamakwa clique, learns to stand up to her domineering boyfriend and make her issues heard. And the whole group gets a lot of laughs by poking fun at Lou's clumsy helper Stick Coder (Sam Raimi). By the time the campers leave, they have a better grasp on their personal issues.

Director and scriptwriter Mike Binder has fashioned an immensely enjoyable picture with "Indian Summer." It is tough to make an ensemble movie with characters and plot threads as well developed as they are here. By the end of the movie, you know these characters intimately. All the actors do a superb job, but special mention goes to Alan Arkin, Kevin Pollack, Bill Paxton, and Julie Warner. I cannot remember a film where Arkin failed to turn in a bravura performance, and he does so again as the benevolent father figure Lou Handler. Paxton has the troubled drifter role down pat, and Pollack charms with his usual humor (no William Shatner impressions here, unfortunately). The incredibly beautiful Julie Warner never fails to catch my eye in any film she is in. She was probably the reason I watched the picture in the first place. The best part of the film happens at the beginning when the adults arrive at the camp and the scenery's colors suddenly explode into bright brilliancy. What a great way to show the dreariness of adult life compared to the memories of childhood!

"Indian Summer" is definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't have any extras, not even a commentary track from some of the actors, which would have been nice. I really ought to quit renting this one and just buy a copy. Of course, I would have to hide it behind a mountain of horror movies on the shelf just in case anyone I know happened to see it sitting there. I have a reputation to protect, after all. Give "Indian Summer" a look the next time you're in the video store. Chances are you will probably enjoy it.

Buy Indian Summer (1985) Now

It's apparently very difficult to make a film that is sweet and sentimental without also being mawkish, manipulative, corny, insulting, witless or juvenile (or one of dozens of other entertainment maladies). It makes one very partial to films, such as this one, that manage to succeed. Perhaps it is really an older person's film for those who have seen the treasures of their youth destroyed by decay or progress or just changing fashions. Alan Arkin takes an indirect path to save the summer camp his family has run for decades. It doesn't sound like much, but the film is well written, extremely well cast, and manages in the end to be very touching, without the aforementioned ailments. Given that the Blu-ray disk costs no more than going to the theater (and a lot less if you pour your own soda), it is a real bargain. Highly recommended.

Read Best Reviews of Indian Summer (1985) Here

After being a kid 15 or so years ago and being a huge fan of films of all types, this was one of the movies I always talked about and never set out to buy. I mean I won't spend 20 bucks on the DVD, but if the Blu Ray is 10 bucks and easily accessible, why not. If it sucks I lose 10 bucks, so what, if not I could do some serious walking down memory lane and remembering how I watched an "old people movie" and laughed a lot when I was younger.

So after learning that it was getting released I was pretty excited and wondered if I would laugh at the same parts or think that the movie was cheesy stupid crap and gave it to someone as a gift. I shouldn't have doubted myself. This movie was every bit as amazing as it was when I watched it so many years ago. I laughed at all the same parts and understood more clearly some of the parts that I didn't get or didn't care for when I was younger. Not to mention the cast is great, Bill Paxton as the rebel camper, Alan Arkin as the lovable former camp head "Uncle Lou" is just charming. Let me not forget Kevin Pollack among others (horror master director Sam Raimi plays a huge part..sort of) that are part of this cast of characters find themselves returning to camp long after each of them have established themselves as adults and left camp Tamakwa a part of the past.

No sooner than they dock their canoes does old drama stir up, old flames re-kindled, and thankfully to one camper bringing along his new girlfriend, does new life breathe into some old cabins deep in the canadian woods.

This movie is great for when you need a good movie that is just heartwarming, funny, touching. This is a great escape from all the crap mostly that is out there now, bad acting, shotty directing, sub par cinematography, mediocre scripts. Finally a film from my childhood that I could show my kids. No gory violence, no gratuitous nudity, no graphic language, this is just a really good movie. Not to mention that the transfer wasn't that bad on the blu ray, no special features, but for the price you really can't beat it.

Give it a shot, I'm sure you won't regret it.

Want Indian Summer (1985) Discount?

My DVD copy (ISBN #0-7888-3699-4) plays Widescreen: a letterbox with black bars on the top and bottom. The DVD cover says in one place, "Fullscreen (1.33:1)" and in another, "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV", but it's not true. Don't know the real aspect ratio, but it's certainly not Pan-N-Scan. How odd, and welcome in my case.

Gentle, warm and well made. A film that does not rely on grenades to advance the plot.

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