Funeral Kings – that title first attracted my attention to the movie. Its cover artwork intrigued me too as, for some reason, in combination with the title, the film reminded me of the 2002 film The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. Certainly the plots of both films have something in common – mischievous youth and an abundance of Coming-of-Age experiences they go through. I can even recall a few other similarly themed films such as Kids, Mean Creek, L.I.E., and Thirteen — all of them captivating, with a hint of controversy and a story with potential to engage teenage audiences and adults alike (even if for different reasons).
The film brings a realistic portrayal of teenage experiences. Who (except perhaps an overly conservative parent) would not like that? The action in Funeral Kings is set in a small town in a Rhode Island community where some rebellious 13 and 14 year old boys try to prove to the world (and themselves) how grown up they have become.
Young actors Dylan Hartigan, Alex Maizus, Charles Kwame Odei and Jordan Puzzo deliver astonishing performances in the lead roles. Their characters are well developed and believable – so much so that if you were/are their age you may recognize some of your classmates in them (or maybe even yourself). Their talent shines through and, for some reason, the character portrayed by Maizus reminded me of Tommy Leblanc (wonderfully played by Canadian actor Robert Naylor) in Daniel Grou’s 2010 film 10½ . Coming from me, comparing Maizus to Naylor is a real compliment.
One does not really learn anything new about teenagers from this film. They are rebellious and lack caution, are confused, self-obsessed, and horny. Yet observing the way they launch themselves into adventures, facing the challenges of life — falling, standing, and then keep on rolling — results in an immersive experience. The McManus brothers (Kevin and Matthew) who both wrote the screenplay and directed the film, have created a masterpiece in the very first full feature film they have worked on.
The film’s hip-hop soundtrack is sure to boost its appeal with young audiences, an excellent choice of music for a film focusing on modern day youth. There is plenty of foul language, yet I found the overuse of bad words justified in a film that strives for authenticity. Surely not all teenagers talk that way. Yet those in this film do and I am glad that the McManus brothers did not shy away from the language in developing the story and the dialogue realistically.
A loss of innocence, peer pressure, friendship, and experimentation — those typical issues addressed in many Coming-of-Age narratives — are also present in Funeral Kings. Such quality independent cinema puts Hollywood to shame.
Funeral Kings (2012) Trailer