Six movies that depict the melancholic side of summer

“Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do,” goes the classic Eddie Cochran lyric, “but there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” Summer usually evokes three glorious months of cookouts, fireflies, and cold beer; but in the cinema, summer can also provoke bouts of wistfulness or nostalgia. Check out these summer movies that are not entirely sunny in temperament.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Wes Anderson films (The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore) can be an acquired taste for some, including this critic, but this off-beat teen romance seemed to find the right balance of sincerity and artifice to truly work. Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis lead a stellar cast of Anderson regulars in a story about two runaway misfits who find each other—and love—on a New England island.

Adventureland (2009)
A change in his parents’ financial circumstances strands naïve college grad James in an unfulfilling summer job, until he meets and pursues an appealing co-worker. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart star in this coming-of-age story set at a run-down amusement park. (Not to be confused with The Way, Way Back, a coming of age story set at a run-down water park).

The Wackness (2008)
Josh Peck plays Luke, a depressed NYC teenager who dabbles in pot dealing. He trades a steady supply of weed for therapy sessions with Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), and the two develop a curious rapport as each struggles with his own romantic dilemmas. Matters get complicated when Luke seeks advice on seducing a girl, unaware that she is his therapist’s step-daughter.

Do The Right Thing (1989)
Still remarkable for its prescience, this story brims with the powerful vision and rage of director Spike Lee. As the temperatures rise over several scorching days in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, racial tensions also surface…with dire consequences for many in this tight community. The incredible cast includes Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, Lee himself, and too many more to name. Recent events have made this film as timely and provocative as when it was released.

Stand By Me (1986)
Director Rob Reiner’s love story to adolescent male friendships finds four boys (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman) on a trek to find the dead body of a local boy. Packed with adventurous set pieces and with a score of period pop tunes, the film wonderfully captures the connections that bind the friends as well as the ambitions that threaten to push them apart. Based on a short story by Stephen King, the film gains even more poignancy as the lives of its stars have come to resonate with the characters they played as boys.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)
The Summer in this title is not the season, but a beautiful young woman (Zooey Deschanel). Summer is completely uninterested in relationships and love, despite the entreaties of an earnest suitor, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Intriguingly told in an out-of-order chronology, the story charts the ups and downs of their 500-day courtship and the life lessons both learn along the way.

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed films for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Mark also has written on the movies for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark has been an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University since 1998. A career arts administrator, he is the executive director of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and now lives on Market Street. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.