Halston Sage left The Orville because apparently the shooting of this film THE LAST SUMMER, conflicted with her filming schedule of the very popular Fox show, and she decided that this was more important. Or you could believe the highly theorized and sort of proven explanation that what was really going on is that she was banging Writer/Star Seth McFarlane, they had a falling out, and since things were awkward, and he was the lead, Bobs your uncle. Either way, this movie was a completely bad decision on her part (she isn’t even the main, main lead). The first hour or so of this film is actually pretty decent, but then a very coincidental second act twist happens (a really really really dumb and unbelievable twist), and the films falls to all the cliched narrative devices for rom-com-dramedies that you can think of and slips past mediocre into oblivion.
I won’t reveal what that slight twist is, needless to say if you ever end up watching this you’ll know exactly what I meant when it happens. It’s eye roll inducing, very very poor writing just to move the plot along for convenience sake. Before we get to talking about how it completely sinks faster than the Titanic afterward, let’s start with the plot. It’s basically the #MeToo cautionary tale poor man’s version of Can’t Hardly Wait, except instead of stretching it out just one night with a very long party, it’s stretched out a whole summer, the last summer before high school kids go off to college. The main star is Riverdale’s KJ Apa, who is dealing with his iron wrought Dad and basically being forced into going to Columbia, his old man’s old college (She’s All That anyone?). He then runs into a former crush (Maia Mitchell), who is a film student going to a college near him, but she has problems opening up (every rom-com movie ever).
Then you have several more stories all going on at once and intertwined by certain people knowing other certain people. You have the couple (Halston Sage and Jacob Lattimore) that are eventually going to college’s really far away from each other, so they break up at the beginning of summer so they don’t have to deal with even worse heartache at the end of it. They end up finding other people really quickly, but they might not be what they bargained for. You have a girl (played by the wonderful Sosie Bacon, yes, that is Kevin Bacon’s daughter) that is trying to get into a college so she is taking care of a talented child that happens to have a cinema dream diva of a mother. You have a smoking hot looking dude making a sex wish list of girls he’d like to bang by the end of summer. And then you have two nerdy kids that try to make the most of their summer by doing adult things, so they dress up in business suits and go to a bar to try and get served without having to provide and ID, and they both end up with something much more.
Every story wraps up the way you basically think it will. Except for the two nerdy kids, that was an ending I was not expecting at all and glad the movie was able to subvert my expectations on their journey. But everything else is just cliched bullshit mish-mash that you’ve seen in every rom-com dramedy that has come before it. For one, it uses the most simple plot device you could imagine to get people out of their romantic situations so they can be with the person they were meant to be with: cheating. They use the “oh I thought you were special but you were actually cheating on me” card so many times in this film it made my head spin. Why can’t writers come up with a more natural way of splitting up two people with decent chemistry apart other than that one of them cheats on the other? Doesn’t make sense to me.
And then there is the twist with KJ Apa and Maia Mitchell’s plot. It is the most convenient twist I have ever seen come from one these movies in the past decade. I actually exclaimed, “are you seriously fucking kidding me?” when it was revealed. And I should’ve seen it coming too. Well, I kind of did, but was hoping and praying and trying to ignore my prediction thoughts, trying to give the movie the benefit of the doubt that the writers were smarter than that and wouldn’t go in that direction. Nope, they went there. The only saving grace of that twist is that KJ Apa has a dialogue with a different character late into the movie which actually felt real that tried to solve the predicament. Too little too late. My favorite story of the film was easily Sosie Bacon taking care of the younger girl over the summer. Even though that plot is probably the shortest of them all and the most predictable, Bacon’s acting elevates it in a way that it isn’t as bad as it could have been. I wish she was more of a star, she has this natural ability to come across extremely likable and realistic on screen.
The Last Summer isn’t a terrible film per say. The first half is actually decent. It’s just once that twist happens, everything else just falls into place on the cliched board of Hollywood Storytelling 101. It’s really really disappointing, especially when all the performances are good. This film would definitely not have worked in a theater and if it did somehow reach it, wouldn’t have made any money. That’s unfortunately what Netflix has become, the new direct to streaming service of films that nobody really wants to watch or looks forward to. I would recommend it to those just wanting to watching something mindless on a weekend afternoon, but other than that, I have a feeling this one will be another Netflix original lost in the crowd, and it certainly will not be the last one to achieve this status…