Thursday, September 29, 2016

[Review] Goat

Goat begins with a slow-motion sequence of flexing, shirtless dudes egging on an unknown subject, then it cuts to Nick Jonas shotgunning a beer and snorting cocaine (yes, you read that right) at a college party. These opening scenes merely set the tone for this hazing horror story.

After being robbed and brutally assaulted one night, the reserved Brad (Ben Schnetzer) decides to pledge to Phi Sigma Mu--a fraternity that his rowdy brother Brett (Jonas) belongs to--in hopes for a sense of belonging, protection, and tight friendships. But it doesn't go as expected. Let's just say things get real ugly as soon as the "Hell Week" initiations begin and the hazing ensues.

It skips the lighthearted pranks and launches straight into the humiliating and nauseating side of stuff. If we're being real - it's sadistic torture. Mentally and physically. Disturbing cult rituals. As intentionally difficult as Goat is to watch, it remains completely enthralling. Directed by Andrew Neel and written by David Gordon Green, the film is a critical exercise in toxic masculinity and loathsome tough guy-isms, as well as an exposé of the illusion of unity when things are pushed too far (way too far), and the crap that people will succumb to under peer pressure and a desire to fit in.

The film also works well as a character study of the two brothers, prompting role reversals and resonant arcs, especially as they realize that their frat "brothers" are no better than the white trash punks who jumped Brad. And you're probably wondering how pop superstar Nick Jonas fares in not just his first feature role, but one that also happens to be a gritty little indie flick. Well, he does a pretty damn good job. It's not quite as natural of a fit as some of the other performers here, but it's impressive nonetheless. Speaking of, the ever-busy James Franco makes a bold appearance (or at least one of his clones does) as the frat's slaphappy former leader. He was probably only on the set for about 15 minutes for his scene, but he strolls in and absolutely crushes it.

Goat is harrowing, provocative, and urgent--especially considering how some of the dark and atrocious corners of college culture are beginning to be spotlighted more in the headlines.

( 8/10 )

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