Set along the Massachusetts coast on fictional Cousins Beach, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is an average coming-of-age story involving a young lady’s ups and downs.
As filmed in North Carolina, the new Amazon Prime Video series was released for public consumption this month. Its timing is right on the money, as many bored teens, college students and single parents are in the mood for love, lust or leisure in general.
After viewing a handful of the first season’s shows, I got the general idea and a clear picture. For the record: “The Summer I Turned Pretty” maiden voyage has seven episodes, and a second season is imminent.
Author Jenny Han’s popular novel – which I haven’t read and likely never will – follows the sandy path of Belly (birth name Isabel), a high school girl who has almost everything but romance.
All of 16 years old and facing her junior year of school, Belly fixates on two brothers – hunky introvert Conrad and flamboyant Jeremiah – whom she visits at their parents’ beach house. The boys’ ill mother Susannah runs the home without her estranged husband, a businessman who cheated with a secretary.
The story’s panoply of individuals will stretch far and wide: Belly’s best friend Taylor, single and willing to mingle; the heroine’s college-bound brother Steven and their divorced mother Laurel; Conrad’s insecure girlfriend Nicole; plus an author named Cleveland, a bachelor whose eyes are focused on Laurel.
Most of the “Pretty” participants are nothing if not spoiled; the grown-ups flaunt luxurious lifestyles and the teens’ jobs come across as hobbies. Rest assured, amid the smokescreens and red herrings, romance is in the ocean air.
Comparisons could be made to a number of motion pictures, from “Absolute Beginners” circa 1986 to the raunchier “American Pie” and gritty “Thirteen” two decades ago.
To the TV series’ significant credit, its characters are multi-dimensional rather than paper dolls, and “Pretty” is serenely shot with images that will conveniently serve social-media photo galleries.
It’s easy to appreciate how the youths and adults herein both face realistic conflicts that, more often than not, mirror one another. Aside from a few familiar faces, most notably Tom Everett Scott (the protagonist and drummer of “That Thing You Do!”), the cast comprises lesser-knowns and newcomers.
On the downside, contrivance abounds in the form of stereotypes and predictability that wouldn’t be amiss on a soap opera. Failed relationships, cancer, alcoholism and betrayal wash up on Cousins Beach, accompanied by various pop tunes.
We could also do without smatterings of toilet humor – especially at the dinner table – such as one’s reference to urinating into a fireplace.
Then again, it could be argued, that’s life. Indeed, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” presents little out of the ordinary while digging beneath its heroine’s skin.
By and large, the series stays in its lane by living up to its title and source material. Feel the breeze.