Starring Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jonas, Gus Halper, Danny Flaherty and James Franco
Andrew Neel’s film Goat desperately wants to be relevant with bullying and hazing subject matter in the news recently. The opening credits, focused on youthful male bodies in slow motion and at unrest, clues the viewer in to the preceding dark nature of the film. Celebrity faces like pop singer Nick Jonas and indie king James Franco (also a producer), are added to the mix in an attempt to help Goat register with mainstream viewers. Jonas, who has had a successful stint on television, has get to find his footing on the big screen. Certainly an improvement from his throwaway straight-to-dvd film Careful What You Wish For, his casting here is completely wrong.
Following a brutal attack after a frat party, Brad Land (Schnetzer) decides to join his older brothers’ fraternity. Brad is the more intellectual sibling, so joining a frat would be an introduction to a new world. Brett (Jonas) explains that he won’t get in just because they are siblings. Brad’s freshman roommate, even more non-frat material, will also be rushing. From forced alcohol, mud wrestling, verbal and physical abuse, both Brad and the rest of the newcomers endure what has become known as typical initiation antics. However, Brett watching his victimized little brother suffer at the hands of so-called friends, is too much and the bond he had expected to have with his blood brother and “brothers” is called into question.
There is a better, more impactful film about this topic out there just waiting to get made.
Schnetzer (Snowden) who previously starred in another white, youthful male privilege film The Riot Club, is 26 years old playing a 19-year-old freshman. Nick Jonas is 23 years old and in much smaller stature than Schnetzer, plays the older brother. This creates both visual and reconciliation issues for the viewer. Casting fail. It makes matters worse that Schnetzer is the better actor, Jonas comes across as completely helpless, his performance forced and ineffective. Franco appears in one scene where he simply shouts explicative, removes his shirt, slaps our main star and the film continues as if he had never appeared. There is a foreboding feeling, led by narrative and score, that something truly ghastly is about to happen. It doesn’t take the viewer long to understand the relevance of the title when an actual goat is brought into the initiation mix, but the film actually never gets as dark as you might expect.
Antic after antic the story focuses on. We never see either of the brothers in class, or functioning outside the frat house of initiations. This limits the audience ability to identify with the characters or understand their universal situation. Goat fails to address the complexities of college life, instead just focusing on one minor, although life changing, aspect of it. “If you quit, what else is there,” the roommate says. “If the frat goes, everything goes with it”. Despite never actually delivering a shock value moment, the script does keep the audience in suspense waiting for it. There is a better, more impactful film about this topic out there just waiting to get made.
All bark and no emotional bite as it attempts to dramatize a story about fraternity ritual hazing.