“Giants Being Lonely” is a dreamy, downbeat portrait of small town Southern teens, an impressionistic portrait of the idea that you never know what somebody’s dealing with.
Although it borrows, in the most overt ways, plot points from “The Last Picture Show” and “Hoosiers,” it paints an engrossing portrait of kids being kids — aimless, reckless and focused on “the now” even with the weight of the world on them.
Bobby (Jack Irv) is the handsome, curly-locked star pitcher of the Giants, his high school team. Everybody in this corner of North Carolina knows him and seems to just adore him. Bobby gets by on natural ability and unaffected charm. He has the confidence of being celebrated and the exhibitionism of toned and fit youth. Skinny dipping with the gang isn’t enough. He’s got to do a nude dive off the nearest bridge, girls trying not to gawk as he does.
But we see the loner in him, his walks along the tracks, sleeping outside in the gazebo in the park, sneaking into a junkyard to steal car parts to resell. We watch him put his drunken, broken father to bed on the couch of their double-wide.
Caroline (Lily Gavin) wears her “hottest girl in school” label with a certain reluctance. She has her posse, and a pretty but embittered divorced mom who rides her constantly. She’s sexually active, searching for some connection, some affection that’s missing in her life.
Adam (Ben Irving) has it worst of all. He’s another pitcher on the baseball team, but not the star. He’s shy and sensitive. And he’s the coach’s son. Coach (Gabe Fazio) is the first angry face we see in “Giants,” the first profane, bellowing voice we hear, chewing out his “privileged little bastard pipsqueak” team like a redneck who takes the wrong messages from watching John Oliver.
Coach is the sort of rural Southerner who stuffs his Glock in his pants before going out, even to practice, who lets off steam at the firing range and who relentlessly bullies his team, his fragile, sad wife (Amalia Culp) and his kid.
“Giants” isn’t a movie with a big “inciting incident” that prompts everything that happens in the third act. Director Patterson shoots for a dread that sticks to the viewer’s mind as we watch these kids drift toward something or somethings that will eventually go off the rails for them.
Baseball scouts are noticing Bobby. But like the walking cliche that he is, he can shrug that off.
Caroline gets asked to the prom, something that happens shockingly close to the date for “the hottest girl in school.”
And Adam is just about ready to rebel, to start demanding what he wants out of life from parents who either won’t or can’t consider that, because they never have.
This indie outing washes over you in ways that make its many dissonant notes recede into the background. The performances are understated, internalized, even the characters that we know are going to blow up at some point.
Bobby’s Dad looks more like a granddad, and the best way to calm him down is “put the record on.” Dad’s into Lou Reed.
The Coach seems to dote on his wife and is definitely abusing his son. But before we get too comfortable in a stereotype, he’s pushing a Grand Tour of Europe vacation at them, which his boy isn’t having.
“I’m going to prom!”
Adam asking Caroline to prom, in front of all her friends, is novel. So much for bashful. She doesn’t give away any idea that she’s smitten. He’s just the next guy who might get her away from her mother for a bit.
That makes “Giants” feel true to its sense of place at times, but more true to what outsider screenwriters (rarely high school jocks), recycling tropes from other coming-of-age dramas, understand it to be.
That said, the obvious artifice doesn’t change the film’s essential adolescent truth. High school is all about “being lonely.”
MPA Rating: unrated, violence, sex, profanity
Cast: Jack Irv, Lily Gavin, Gabe Fazio, Ben Irving and Amalia Culp.
Credits: Directed by Grear Patterson, script by Grear Patterson and Sam Stillman. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:18