‘Hot Summer Nights’ Review // 2018 Nashville Film Festival


I drank some beers and they let me do this?

*No spoilers in here folks, lesgooo

If you’ve never been to a film festival you may have some preconceived notions. Could be uptight, a little film-snobby, right? Not really. Mostly it’s just people ordering $9 concession stand Miller Lites and yelling Timothée Chala-BAE during introductions.

When you put it like that, I guess it makes sense that they let Stranger Beers in. Make no mistake — that was definitely a surprise to us lol. But fortunately we were able to catch the last day of the festival and its closing film Hot Summer Nights.

Elijah Bynum’s directorial debut stars Timothée Chalamet, Alex Roe and Maika Monroe, a love/hate-relationship triangle of Cape Cod locals reaping the benefits of selling cheap weed to summer birds and tourists. All is fine until it isn’t, because that’s how movies work.

You can picture how this kind of thing goes, and your imagination probably isn’t far off-base. Hot Summer Nights is fairly conventional for anyone who went through a Scorsese phase as they discovered *stands up straight, adjusts tie* true cinema in their teenage years. All his moves are there: the classic rock soundtrack, the fly-in close-ups, the cocaine. Bynum obviously watched Goodfellas before he got his license.

So all of that Scorsese-flare is there in spades, nearly to a fault. On paper, Hot Summer Nights would seem like the prized work of a film school valedictorian, wearing its influences all too clearly. But in a film where everyone and everything is a true coming-of-age archetype, it’s the charismatic cast that keeps things fresh.

Maika Monroe and Alex Roe play estranged siblings, each a Cape Cod urban myth in their own right. Each serve as the yin and yang to Chalamet’s Daniel, a newcomer looking to fit in and suddenly pulled in all directions by the others. The girl every boy wants to kiss, the dude every boy wants to be, and essentially, the boy. Hot Summer Nights keeps it simple, but the cast colors outside the lines so much that the tired outline never becomes exhausting.

They may not have known it heading into production, but Hot Summer Nights is an alley-oop for Chalamet to dunk on everyone. Filmed in 2015 prior to CMBYN hysteriathe signs of what was to come had to be obvious on set. Lots of actors can hold your interest with snappy dialogue and quick-wit editing. But there are a handful of scenes where Chalamet is holding court by doing so little. Dodging someone he doesn’t want to see, fumbling through an unfunny joke. These are all minor notes in a script that ya boy sells like a vet.

And let me tell you the crowd ate this shit up. Of course, they were rocking and hollering as the A24 logo appeared, so obviously you’re getting a friendly crowd. But don’t worry, this will hold up anywhere. Hot Summer Nights is flawed, it’s a bit derivative, but gah damn, it’s fun.


So yeah, I had some beers as well. Many just before Movie #1 of the day, I might add! And thank god I did. I’d rather not mention this film because it was, to use some industry jargon, dog shit. Rumored to have roughly a $150,000 budget, it was working with a completely different set of tools compared to HSN. You realize quickly at these festivals just how fucking hard it is to make a movie.

Luckily, I was loosened up by a ton of Southern Grist and Bearded Iris Nashville-haze. In my limited experience, the rest of Nashville beer is fine. It’s cool, whatever. But these two places are the reason to come into town. Having SG’s Mixed Greens at The Filling Station was a great way to start things off. And really that place is just dope anyway. It’s in a lively but more homey area of Nashville not far from Belmont University. Picked up some Noise Pollution that was excellent as well.

Next we hit Bearded Iris and I have a few notes:

  • Shit, people love Bearded Iris. It was packed.
  • Known for their haze, the chocolate chip cookie stout was just fine at best.
  • But gah damn, that haze! They know what they’re great at and stick to their basics for the most part.

Came back with cans of Chasing Rainbows V, but if you’re in the area, I think their DDH Attention Please! stood out among the rest on tap. All of this launched us into that first film and uhhhhh boy yeah ok there bob. Not good. But the thing is you learn to respect it pretty easily. As mentioned earlier, that shit is hard and you learn way more about filmmaking from a bad movie than from a good movie. There were parts I did admire after thinking on it, but you’d never want to see this thing in theaters (or less than five beers deep.)

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