French theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Larry Clark|
|Produced by||Christine Vachon
Gus Van Sant
|Screenplay by||Harmony Korine|
|Story by||Larry Clark
|Music by||Lou Barlow|
|Editing by||Christopher Tellefsen|
|Distributed by||Shining Excalibur Films|
|Running time||91 minutes|
The film features Chloë Sevigny, Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Harold Hunter, and Rosario Dawson, all of them in their debut performances. The film is centered on a day in the life of a group of sexually active teenagers in New York City and their unrestrained behavior towards sex and substance abuse (alcohol and other drugs) during the era of HIV in the mid-1990s.
Kids created considerable controversy upon its release in 1995, and caused much public debate over its artistic merit, even receiving an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was later released without a rating and grossed $20 million at the worldwide box office.
Sixteen-year-old Telly and a twelve-year-old girl are making out. Telly convinces the girl, who is a virgin, to have sex with him. Afterwards, he meets his friend, Casper. Telly tells Casper about his sexual experience in graphic terms. They go inside a local store, and Casper shoplifts a bottle of malt liquor as Telly distracts the cashier. They then steal a peach, using the same set-up just outside the store from a sidewalk display. Looking for drugs and food, they head to their friend Paul's apartment, though they express dislike of him on the way there. They arrive at Paul's house, talk about sex and smoke marijuana while watching a skate video (Video Days) (Casper inhales nitrous oxide out of balloons, which Telly considers dangerous). The scene intercuts with a group of girls, among them Ruby and Jennie, talking about sex—each gender contradicting what the other gender says, especially about oral sex.
Ruby and Jennie mention that they were recently tested for STDs at Ruby's request, though Jennie only got tested to keep Ruby company. Ruby's test is negative, though she has had multiple sexual encounters, many of them unprotected. Jennie tests positive for HIV. She says she has had sex only once, with Telly. Jennie spends the rest of the film trying to find Telly, who has taken to only having sex with virgins. Telly and Casper walk to Telly's house and steal money from Telly's mother, who is preoccupied with taking care of the new baby rather than paying attention to Telly. They go to Washington Square Park and buy a dime bag of marijuana from a Rastafarian. They then meet up with a few friends, one of whom gives a blunt-rolling tutorial, to talk and smoke. After taunting a homosexual couple, Casper rides on a skateboard and carelessly bumps into a man, who furiously threatens him. He pushes Casper, but is struck in the back of the head with a skateboard by Harold, a friend of Telly and Casper's, causing him to collapse. A number of other skaters join in, beating, stomping, and hitting the man with their skateboards until he is unconscious.
While discussing whether or not they killed the man at the park, Telly and some of the group from the park pick up a 13-year-old girl named Darcy, the younger sister of an acquaintance, whom Telly wants to have sex with because she is a virgin. He convinces her to go with them to a pool. The other girls engage in pseudo-lesbian kissing and flirtation, but Darcy is restrained, though not shocked by the others' behavior. She notices a lesion on Telly's chest, but Telly dismisses it as a "third nipple." Telly and the group go to the house of another friend, Steven, to smoke, drink and talk about sex. Meanwhile, Jennie goes to a rave club called NASA trying to find Telly. She runs into "Fidget", who gives her a pill: which he refers to as "a euphoric blockbuster drug that is supposed to make 'special K' look weak". It turns out to be a depressant (a downer similar to Valium or xanax). She eventually finds out that Telly is at what has become a party at Steven's house.
Jennie arrives at the party to discover Telly having sex with Darcy, thus exposing her to HIV. Exhausted by her ordeal and with the drug still affecting her, Jennie passes out on a couch among the other sleeping party-goers. A drunken Casper proceeds to rape Jennie as she sleeps, unknowingly exposing himself to HIV as well. The film ends with a soliloquy by Telly about how without sex he would have nothing to live for, as well as a poignant look at several early-morning junkies in the streets of New York. The final scene features a naked Casper looking at the camera and saying "Jesus Christ, what happened?"
- Leo Fitzpatrick as Telly
- Justin Pierce as Casper
- Chloë Sevigny as Jennie
- Rosario Dawson as Ruby
- Jon Abrahams as Steven
- Harold Hunter as Harold
- Harmony Korine as Fidget
- Yakira Peguero as Darcy
- Billy Waldman as Zack
- Julia Mendoza as Susan
- Jeff Pang as Jeff
- Savannah Katsaros as Buddah
- Hamilton Harris as Hamilton
- Ellsworth "Cisco" Davis as Hoodlum
- Sarah Henderson as Girl #1
Larry Clark was reported to have said that he wanted to "make the Great American Teenage Movie, like the Great American Novel." The movie is filmed in a quasi-documentary style, although all of the scenes are scripted.
In Kids, Clark cast New York City "street" kids with no previous acting experience in the film, notably Leo Fitzpatrick (Telly) and Justin Pierce (Casper). Clark originally decided he wanted to cast Fitzpatrick in a film after watching him skateboard in New York, and cursing himself when he could not land certain tricks. Korine had met Chloë Sevigny in New York before production began on Kids, and cast her in a small role as one of the girls in the swimming pool. She was later given the leading role of Jennie when the actress hired to play her (Mia Kirshner) was fired. Sevigny and Korine later went on to make Gummo (1997) together. Korine himself makes a cameo in the club scene with Jennie, as the kid wearing glasses and a Nuclear Assault shirt who gives her drugs, though the part is credited to his brother Avi.
Korine reportedly wrote the film's screenplay in 1993, at the age of 19, and principal photography took place during summer 1994. Contrary to perceptions on the part of many viewers, the film, according to Korine, was almost entirely scripted, with the only exception being the scene with Casper on the couch at the end, which was improvised. Gus Van Sant had originally been attached to the film as a producer. After insufficient interest had been generated in the film, he left the project; under incoming producer Cary Woods, the project found sufficient independent funding for the film. Harvey Weinstein of Miramax, wary of (or perhaps even pressured by) the parent Walt Disney Company's opinion of the risky screenplay, declined to involve Disney in funding the production of the film. After Woods showed him the final cut, however, Miramax paid $3.5 million to buy the worldwide distribution rights of this film.
Because of its unexpurgated subject matter centering on relatively young teenagers, Kids has been controversial. The film includes much explicit sexual dialogue and depicts scenes of date rape, physical violence, drug dealing, alcohol abuse, theft, seduction of barely pubescent minors, and explicit teenage sexual displays, as well as (apparently) adolescent actors/actresses in near but not quite explicit exposure. The original version of the film was rated NC-17 in the United States.
After this film, Fitzpatrick was constantly dealing with harassment from people who believed he was really like his character, Telly. According to an interview with bit-part actor Jeff Pang (who plays himself), many of the party scenes in the film were completely unscripted. The cameras would roll and the "kids" would just get drunk, get high, and play around. There is debate however, as to whether the "blunt-rolling tutorial" scene in Washington Square Park used real marijuana or not.
The film was later released without a rating.
Film critic Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the film a "wake-up call to the modern world" about the nature of present day youth in urban life. While other critics have labeled it exploitative (in the lascivious sense) as borderline "child pornography". Korine attributes the negative reaction to Kids to the expectation on the part of audiences that the film would explicitly make moral judgments on the actions of the characters when Korine gave the film no such moral compass.
Feminist scholar bell hooks spoke extensively about the film in Cultural Criticism and Transformation. "Kids fascinated me as a film precisely because when you heard about it, it seemed like the perfect embodiment of the kind of postmodern, notions of journeying and dislocation and fragmentation and yet when you go to see it, it has simply such a conservative take on gender, on race, on the politics of HIV." Specifically, hooks accused the film of having an inherent gender bias:
I was so fascinated by how everyone would tell me they loved this film. And I'd say, well can you tell me the name of the lead woman character in the film and her sidekick? They never can say the names of the female characters. But they remember the names of the two white male stars, again, and so in a sense when we watch Kids, we are actually being asked again and again, by the camera, by the visual politics of this film to identify with those heterosexual misogynistic boys, the two white males who stand at the center of the film, largely because they are the people who speak, who have a voice. The girls speak only in that sort of pretend documentary moment, which was just a slick moment to make us think that there's gender equity in a film that goes on to never let them speak again.
Miramax, which was owned by The Walt Disney Company, paid $3.5 million to buy the worldwide distribution rights of this film. Later, Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the co-chairmen of Miramax) were forced to buy back the film from Miramax and created Shining Excalibur Films (a one-off company) to release the film, due to Miramax's policy forbidding the release of NC-17 rated films. Eamonn Bowles was hired to be the chief operating officer of Shining Excalibur Films.
The film, which cost $1.5 million to produce, grossed $7.4 million in the North American box office and $20 million worldwide. According to Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures, Eamonn Bowles had stated that Harvey and Bob Weinstein might have personally profited up to $2 million each.
- 1995 Independent Spirit Awards
- Best Debut Performance – Justin Pierce
- Best First Feature (nominated; director Larry Clark and producer Cary Woods)
- Best First Screenplay (nominated; Harmony Korine)
- Best Supporting Female (nominated; Chloë Sevigny)
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains (2003):
- Telly – Nominated Villain
|Kids Original Soundtrack|
- Daniel Johnston – "Casper The Friendly Ghost"
- Deluxx Folk Implosion – "Daddy Never Understood"
- Folk Implosion – "Nothing Gonna Stop"
- Folk Implosion – "Jenny's Theme"
- Folk Implosion – "Simean Groove"
- Daniel Johnston – "Casper the Friendly Ghost"
- Folk Implosion – "Natural One"
- Sebadoh – "Spoiled"
- Folk Implosion – "Crash"
- Folk Implosion – "Wet Stuff"
- Lo-Down – "Mad Fright Night"
- Folk Implosion – "Raise the Bells"
- Slint – "Good Morning, Captain"
- Other songs not included on the soundtrack
- Artifacts – "Wrong Side of the Tracks"
- Average White Band – "I'm the One"
- Beastie Boys – "Sabrosa"
- Beastie Boys – "Pow"
- Brand Nubian – "Word Is Bond"
- Crooklyn Dodgers – "Crooklyn"
- Erule – "Listen Up"
- Jeru the Damaja – "Da Bichez"
- John Coltrane – "Slow Dance"
- O.C. – "Time's Up"
- A Tribe Called Quest – "Oh My God"
- Nine – "Whatcha Want"
- Beastie Boys - "In 3's"
- "KIDS (18) (!)". British Board of Film Classification. 1996-04-11. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
- Kids box office information at Box Office Mojo
- "Harmony-Korine.com – Kids". Archived from the original on 2006-11-08. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
- Bowen, Peter. Summer 1995. "The Little Rascals." Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- Lyons, Tom. 1997-10-16. "Southern Culture on the Skids". The Eye. Retrieved 2009-11-6.
- "Controversy: 'Kids' for Adults", Newsweek, February 20, 1995
- Kids at rottentomatoes.com
- Kids at Rotten Tomatoes; last accessed May 22, 2007.
- Rita Kempley (1995-08-25). "'Kids' (NR)". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-18.
- Ebert, Roger. 1995-6-5. Harmony Korine Interview Retrieved November 2, 2009
- Jhally, Sut. "bell hooks: Cultural Criticism & Transformation" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-03-31.
- Roman, Monica; "Bowles distrib'n prez for Shooting Gallery: Ex-Goldwyn arthouse exec brings sound instincts to Gallery"; January 8, 1998.
- Box Information for Kids at the-numbers.com
- Klady, Leonard. "Bookie bets on 'Paradise'" Daily Variety May 7, 1997
- Awards page for Kids at the Internet Movie Database
- Entertainment Weekly (8/18/95, p.55) - "...it is as dark, beautiful, and uncommercial as the film it accompanies....But the haunting, gritty results are surprisingly addictive for a score..." - Rating: A
- NME (Magazine) (4/13/96, p.49) - 7 (out of 10) - "...a splendid record [that]...pull[s] off the effortlessly cool dance fusion of rattly hip-hop beats and copyright-Barlow sonic doodles....[it] works, both as a collection of songs `inspired by' the film, and as a Folk Implosion extravaganza."
- Spin (10/95, p.120) - 8 - Very Good - "...the music to...KIDS is an inextricable component. It provides a crucial emotional center in a brutally cold picture....Lou Barlow seems an unlikely choice to score the bulk of this street flick, but he's modified his music to fit KIDS's urban vibe..."
- Kids at the Internet Movie Database
- Kids at Box Office Mojo
- Kids at Rotten Tomatoes
- Harmony-Korine.com: Kids