Sexual Awakening, Cruising and Romance
“Beach Rats” is about the sexual awakening of Frankie, a Brooklyn teen, as it looks at cruising in the real world. The movie, directed by Eliza Hittman was inspired by a photograph, one that is representative of today’s day and age of digital culture— the photo is a dimly lit “selfie” taken by a teenage boy and is meant to arouse its eventual recipient. From that photo, Harris Dickinson was cast, and the model-turned-actor delivers some grueling, sensual, and captivating star turns. This is “a story about the tension of masculinity and heteronormativity set in the present and is especially relevant today.
The idea of cruising is not unique to gay people and neither is the relationship between sexuality and class and where you live. These are two of the major themes of the film. Frankie is both “maddeningly impenetrable and desperately vulnerable”. He is a snarler and a mumbler. We see him as a typical teen who is gay and is insecure.
“Beach Rats” gives us a macrocosm of Brooklyn where real estate prices are high and many families fall below the minimum income for self-sufficiency. The film looks at inequality by virtue of its location. When we first meet Frankie, we see him as jut another beach rat. He is buff, blonde and has no job. His days are spent getting high with his friends and walking around a park. There is a sense of insecurity and unhappiness that Frankie can’t hide. His father is dying (which provides him with a steady supply of painkillers), and at night he visits Chat Roulette, a gay cruising site. Over the course of the summer, he attempts a relationship with cute and confident Simone (Madeline Weinstein), but also becomes more confident about meeting up with guys. Eventually, his private desires and daytime friends come together in a seaside confrontation. We see the paradox of modern life where everyone is super-connected all the time because of smartphones and the Internet making sex and drugs easy to obtain. We also see that male sexual awakening is taken for granted. This is NOT a coming-out story since Frankie never comes out.