"The only thing you're working on is diabetes, you fat fuck."
Project X is one big cluster-fuck of a cluster-fuck, within one big-ass cluster-fuck, for better and worse. Pardon my French, but really, that kind of colorful response is the only way one can take in the better portions of what this movie has to offer. From the moment the movie’s centerpiece party starts, all the way to its truly amazing and messed-up closer, high spirits are truly in full force. That kind of energy, and the stylish, creative capturing of such absurdist occurrences witnessed in the party by newcomer director Nima Nourizadeh are really the strengths of the movie, other than the occasionally great line of dialogue from the screenplay by Michael Baccall and Matt Drake. Unfortunately, these highlights aren’t really treated as the crux of the film, even though you really wish they were. As the film actually tries to work with some kind of story and development, it really falls on its face. Satisfaction isn’t really gained from what the filmmakers do with their plot trappings, but what they do succeed with is in handling the centerpiece of a party that the film hypes up and makes good with. I won’t really classify this as a classic, as the parts that actually make or break a movie in fact break this movie. But it’s a truly unique film, in somewhat of experimental terms, that’s for damn sure, and in that respect, I don’t think it should be entirely ignored no matter your opinion on its raunchy-ass, entirely insane contents.
Thomas and his friends, Costa and JB, are losers. They have always been losers, especially throughout high school, and they probably will continue to be losers for the rest of their lives. Hell, even Thomas’ dad acknowledges the fact that his son is a loser. But these kids are those types of sympathetic, funny losers we see in movies- the non-sociopaths, you know? So Costa, being the squirrelly, loudmouth, wannabe-player that he is, isn’t going to let this be so, SPECIFICALLY on Thomas’ 18 birthday. Both he and JB begin to set up what seems to be a cool party (because all they really seem to want it so be cool and to get laid), despite Thomas’ serious reservations about going over a person-count of 30, let alone 10, as per his parents’ strict rules. But the persistent bastard that are his friends keep pushing on, inviting people, and raising the theatrics of it all. Oh, and there’s this girl that Thomas likes, but is just friends with, because HIGH SCHOOOOOOOOOOL.
The clock strikes 9, an hour later than the intended party-start time, and the party has no attendees. Even Thomas is dismayed by this fact, regardless of past worries. But soon enough, droves and droves of bitches and couches arrive, and the drugged-up festivities begin! And keep going! And get crazier and messed up! And it does not stop. Thomas and his friends, after really getting into the swing of things, eventually realize how out of hands things have gotten, but cannot shake away the feelings of fun and acceptance the are getting from the fellow inebriated and substance abusing colleagues of theirs around them! So they keep partying! And things get Really. Fucking. Bat-Shit. BONKERS. And it’s kind of fun to watch.
This film is by no means a subtle film, but in many ways, it’s quite clever. First off is the mockumentary/found footage demeanor it maintains. Early on, we witness the set up of a singular cameraman character named Dax, who follows the main characters around and covers a majority of the first act alone. Where things get interesting is, of course, when the part starts a-raging. Two “security guards” are introduced just before the party starts, and sure enough, they’re both equipped with Flip cameras on their chests. As the two are running around the party, among other places, footage of their escapades are spiced in, giving us a look at their hectic perspectives, as well as the occasional confessionals tat come off as if they’ve just been bombed and are saying their shaky good-byes. So while we’ve got that action/thriller-like additions, amidst the party are kids with iPhones, cameras, and even a few people with the capabilities of getting underwater shots. Being under the euphoric influence of whatever, the commandeers of these cameras are very observant, if not a in an unsteady mindset, and the quality of such clips are deliciously low-fi and jumbled, appropriately so. This lets us get really up close and involved with the action, much like how an actually drunk and dumb teenager would film his friends being drunk and dumb. Then there’s the matter of seeing feed from cop cars, helicopters, news crews, and talk shows. The inclusion of such makes for a great change in pace and perspective, and often helps add to comedic timing as well.
Though I think that my favorite thing about the filmmaking behind this movie is the personality behind it, found within the implication that the cameraman character of Dax essentially compiled all this footage and edited together into what’s practically one big music and partial narrative like a student film. Dax doesn’t speak much, but his attitude comes through in his camerawork, which generally consists of stylish, great looking shots, but with enough grime to the method that its clear that this guy isn’t a professional cameraman, and is probably just some film fan on the AV club (though he’s a cherished member.) He and Cinematographer Ken Seng apply this to how he captures the party, which is with a sense of awareness and approach toward visual flair. As well, music is spliced in as the party continues, but in an external fashion, meaning that the must playing isn’t necessarily what these people are hearing. It’s literally as if Dax made a bunch of musical montages set to his own self-glorified, great looking footage, next to using videos from the other party goers and outside sources- just imagine a found footage movie if the cameraman lived to edit the tale. It’s an ingenious way of launching the audience entirely into the atmosphere of the party. I absolutely hate parties, through and through, but just because of how insane everything turns out, and how creatively the filmmakers brought life to this lively setting, it actually made me want to be there. Shocker if you know me, honestly.
In what's strangely similar to an action movie, Project X is terribly exciting, and butt loads of fun, but mainly for a good three quarters of its runtime. As the central party rages on, things get more hectic, and more exciting. This is where the film is at its best really, right next to a strangely dry sense of naturalistic humor, especially early on. The writing is generally pretty sharp and has a unique quality to it. While some credit should go to screenwriters Baccall and Drake in this respect, I think that a majority of the weight pulled came from the very talented three lead actors. The chemistry these three share is believable- they’re assholes to each other, but still maintain a sense of respect and care… but they’re still assholes. But great assholes that they are, specifically Oliver Cooper as Costa. Fast-talking with swag coming out of his pores, his performance maintains the proper energy of that one annoying kid with too much confidence and a lack of understandings in what boundaries are. Cooper rocks it true, and it makes for fun, and even great partial antagonistic behavior when things get kind of serious. Thomas Mann as Thomas and Jonathan Daniel Brown as JB (clever names) are fine presences, with Thomas being a sympathetic enough tall, lanky loser lead, and JB being… the fat one. No, but honestly, JB is a pretty great character because his real lack of what people think about him, and his quiet demeanor as part of the group.
The high point of the script definitely lies in crafting and progressing the party. Michael Baccall and Matt Drake have conjured up some quite literally unbelievable instances for this small get together. I don’t want to spoil much, but… I mean I’m going to assume you saw the trailer- shit goes fuckward bound. This is the true reason of why you should see Project X- much like an action movie, specifically Crank, as the stakes ramp up, the enjoyment ramps up. Insanity and tension really sky rocket quickly in what’s already a hyper-active event, and the writers really make due with that premise. The absolute absurdity of what goes down is smartly handled and dished out, and really make for the best portions of the film’s runtime.
And then we remember that this is a movie and movies have stories. Sadly, this movie’s story is half-assed and poorly handled, and its presence alone just kills the overall picture at many points and times. In pre-game portions, set ups and developments are actually kind of okay. It’s very cliché’d, and is executed in very cliché’d fashions, but in some cases, it tends to veer of in its own special ways. The actors manage to handle their moments of character development, and elevate their trite beings and personalities with a sense of unique realism, though not too much. Thankfully, the party doesn’t take too long to get on with. But as the enjoyable bits kick-off, we are sneak attacked by plot in too often, un-enjoyable segments. The inclusion of plot progression and exposition should be a non-issue, but it sadly is, and it doesn’t get any better.
A love interest is introduced, and ONE, she (a blandly pretty Kirby Bliss Blanton) acts and looks way too cool for our protagonist, then TWO, her storyline is executed in a nonsensical, kind of bogus way. It’s as if this whole arc occurs just because it’s a movie and something like this has to happen, really, for no damn reason. I wouldn’t even care about this aspect, too, if it were handled much better. I think it could’ve worked by tying into Thomas’ change as a character. There SEEMS to be an effort to do just that, and yet it’s so shoehorned in that there’s no resulting merit to any of it, or genuine care about how it turns out, maybe other than legitimate comeuppance for one’s actions. But it’s a movie- how can we expect THAT?! Her story is distastefully peppered in through-out, as if we’re supposed to give a damn about it (despite the lame delivery), very much in the same vein as the attempts at developing our three leads. Again, something like this is ENTIRELY necessary, but ends up confusing the film with clashes of tone and importance.
It’s these moments of confrontation where the movie tries to be more than it actually is. A maudlin-like friendship arc tends to comes in and out of the film, and feels kind of out of nowhere when it happens. Where a movie like Superbad stresses the relationship of its leads and the heft it has, and even succeeds emotionally, Project X doesn’t really acknowledge much of a depth in the relationship amongst these three kids. Their breakthroughs as friends seem out of place and undeserved, despite of how well they may be executed individually. The actors seem to do okay with what they’re given, but again, the contents and purpose of such scenes aren’t in appropriate company. We get more of this conflict as things get crazier and crazier, and every time it becomes that time to show some skin, you end up wishing that you could just watch more of the sheer insanity that is the party. As soon as the movie actually tries to be serious about itself other than the actual consequences of the party (these kids are seriously FUCKED), Project X literally begins to collapse upon itself. And I’m kind of glad, as its fitting with the level of chaos going on and rising throughout. But then it goes for sympathy where there should be none in an ending that is unbelievable a much as it is unsatisfying. I mean sure, I like a happy ending as much as the next guy, but it’s highly undeserved, logistically and considering story structure. Sure, it works, but not appropriately, lacking justification respectively for the leads. I don’t wish to see darkness or anything- I just wish that there was more effort given to this aspect of the film as opposed to going for recently known storybook, as it really hurts in the long run.
The fact that Project X is a narrative, or at least has a genuine story to tell kills it in the end. If this was just an experiment of a film or something, then it would’ve had been more deserving of respect behind, strangely enough. I’d rather take fantastic, clever and well thought out style over crappy and ham-fisted substance that is played out tiredly and wrapped up poorly. Just a little more time spent at either extreme, be it shopping the story or chucking it entirely would have saved this movie. But I cannot call Project X entirely a failure. It’s just a disappointment that actually manages to do SOME cool things by the end of its own runtime. I personally cannot consider it a classic or anything, but to many, it seems like a prime fit (also strangely enough.) Disagreements aside, I will admit that there is definitely something classic-like and memorable about this film, even though I consider the subject matter we’re subjected to to be idiotic and reprehensible. I’m totally one of those kids. But even I have to say hey- at least they went the whole 10 yards with it. Now THAT’S cool.
Project X gets a 3/5. I think the most important lesson I’ve learned from this movie is that I am much more of a nerd than I expected. I mean, tried to figure out which Mortal Kombat characters the protagonists were using when they were playing it. I thought that was pretty funny.
Red Band Trailer: Project X
Breasts? In MY movie trailer? It's more likely than you think!
Trailer 2: Project X
This puppy is going to party like he's never partied before if this trailer to the latest Todd Philips production is any indication.
Trailer: Project X
Hey, these kids are totally filming themselves having a wild party! Smells like The Virginity Hit Redux, but with Todd Philips on board it looks like there'll be some level of The Hangover-esque hijinks as well.
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