Movie Review: A makeover, a new tribe, “My Summer as a Goth”

“My Summer as a Goth” is a coming-of-age tale with too much black, too much makeup, and synth rock, it’s the “Strike a Pose” or “How I spent my summer vacation” romances.

A winning cast, novel “tribal” setting and some witty dialogue put this one over.

Natalie Shershaw is Joey, a high school sophomore we meet at the cemetery. She’s a tad morbid. She talks to a dead person there.

“I’m the girl whose Dad died, remember?”

That’s to her classmates. To her BFF Molly (Rachelle Henry), she’s a bit more flippant when playing for sympathy.

“My Dad’s body is still warm...too dark?”

Mom (Sarah Overman) is on a book tour, so there’s nothing for it but for standoffish/no-fun Joey to spend the summer with her grandparents. But as cool as these aged hippies (Fayra Reeters, Jonas Israel) might be, with their “So, who wants to do drugs?” and Grandpa’s nude breakfast cooking, it’d be nice if she could meet someone her own age.

That would be Victor of the vampire glam rocker makeup, grandson of the friendly seniors next door. Victor, played by Jack Levi, is forward, a tad femme and flirty. Oh, and “smug” — “If by ‘smug,” you mean ‘awesome.‘”

She spies him in a dress, faking a hanging in his bedroom in his grandparents’ house. She is smitten and he is all-in to be a tour guide to his “not just a scene, it’s a way of life.”

It begins with an “emergency makeover” — hair dye, fishnets, the works. A party in a cemetery — everybody dancing to a shared mix via ear buds — leads to spending the night in a tomb.

“You know, there’s no going back.”

And there isn’t. Not for a summer, anyway. Sixteen year-olds try stuff on and discard it by design. We call them “phases.”

A whirlwind summer of parties — her first joint, her first drink — bullying by rednecks and punks (Eduardo Reyes) making out and Goths on a camping trip give our shy Joey a tribe. Well, maybe she’s just a poseur, but the look suits her.

“I wear black on the outside to show how I feel inside.”

Director and co-writer Tara Johnson-Medinger doesn’t hide her cards well, but there are surprises here, largely in the picture’s tone.

Dark clothes, young couples wearing a vial of each other’s blood and making a death pact, New Romantics pop and lots and lots and lots of makeup — “Oh my God I think I’m TANNING.” “When are you EVER going to get the concept of re-appLYING?”

And it’s all so damned sweet, maybe not “strictly PG,” but as our heroine lives her season-long story arc, she comes out in a different place than where she started, bonds with her “a little too cool” grandparents, works out some Mommy/Daddy issues and grows.

Shershaw is a vulnerable, naive delight and former child actor Levi simply loses himself in the makeup, the pose, the effete snobbery and “the scene,” which may be the best thing about “My Summer as a Goth.”

The movie version of this culture may not be the most representative. But it certainly makes all that steampunk black look fun.

MPA Rating: unrated, drug use, sexual situations, smoking

Cast: Natalie Shershaw, Jack Levis, Eduardo Reyes, Fayra Reeters, Jonas Israel and Sarah Overman

Credits: Tara Johnson-Medinger, script by Tara Johnson-Medinger and Brandon Lee Roberts. A 123 Go Films release.

Running time: 1:41

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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