S.L.C. Punk!

There's a scene relatively early on in the ecstatically titled S.L.C. Punk! that provides a neat summation of just about everything the film has to say about class, rebellion, and politics in '80s America. In it, antiestablishment punk Matthew Lillard tells off his bewildered hippie-turned-yuppie parents, screaming at them in his best James Dean voice about how they used to have values in the '60s when they were hippies, but that they've sold out and are now tools for The Man, which will never happen to him, as he is a rebellious anarchist punk who is going to change the world with his ideas. It actually plays out as far more unintentionally amusing than it sounds, but it should give you a fairly good idea of the sort of cartoonishly inane social criticism the film has to offer. S.L.C. Punk! tells the story of the only two punk kids in Salt Lake City circa 1985, the amusingly named Stevo (Matthew Lillard) and Heroin Bob (Michael A. Goorjian), two listless college graduates living, loving, and learning a little something about themselves during the summer after their college graduation. In the hands of a more competent filmmaker, Lillard's character—an anarchist, punk, philosopher, and potential Harvard law student—might have emerged as a complex, contradictory figure. Writer-director James Merendino, however, has created him as a sloppily written cipher who's not particularly convincing as a punk, an anarchist, or a potential Ivy Leaguer. Mainly, he just seems like a good-natured doofus. Lillard is surrounded by a large cast of poorly defined archetypes, from the token Mod (James Duval) to the freaky older chick (Annabeth Gish) to the beautiful woman with the incredible power to change Lillard's life (Summer Phoenix). Filled with cheap irony, heavy-handed sentiment, and cartoonish bumpkins, S.L.C. Punk! takes a potentially fascinating subject and reduces it to a mawkish compendium of film-festival clichés.

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