Based on Actual Events always means a sensationalized version of the truth, but when it comes to frats… how sensationalized are the events, really?
Physical and Mental Abuse | Vomiting | Blood
Review (with Spoilers)
There is a certain mystique to fraternities. On one hand, they are the source of parties, they make it seem like their network will do more than get you a good job but also attractive girls, and for that, you’d do anything right? Well, this movie goes into that but with the name James Franco attached, a red flag if you don’t see the name Seth Rogen anywhere, you have to wonder if this is to be taken seriously or will the sensationalism Franco is known for when involved, will it kill its depth?
Brad (Ben Schnetzer) | Brett (Nick Jonas) | Will (Danny Flaherty) | Dixon (Jake Picking) | Leah (Virginia Garnder)
In one way it is about following in his brother’s footsteps and in another it is about all a frat seemingly guarantees. That is the reason behind Brad wanting to join Brett’s fraternity. After all, as Will points out, how else will the average dude find himself having sex with beautiful women, invited to the biggest parties, and not spend college as some sort of weird guy right?
Problem is, not just anyone can get into a frat for on top of those benefits, there is also the prestige, the network frats have, and who wants just any single bugger becoming a brother. Enter Dixon, the pledge master, who is tasked with filtering out the goats trying to get into Phi Sigma Mu. Though his methods aren’t universally agreed upon and become tragic.
To my surprise, the cast in this film all play memorable roles. Not to the point you’d want to explore their filmographies, but like with the case of Flaherty who I automatically associate with Skins (US), I’d imagine if you see most of the actors in something after this film you’d remember them as that guy from GOAT.
Strangely, Women Aren’t Trashed That Much
Granted, outside of Leah, there isn’t any woman in this film who shows up more than once. However, considering this is a film about college, much less with frats, it was a pleasant surprise that we weren’t treated to an HBO styled movie which just had a parade of nameless naked girls one set of breast and ass cheeks one after another.
It Seems Like It Should Have Some Emotional Depth But Doesn’t
The synopsis on IMDB notes how Brad is reeling from a “terrifying assault.” Yet, after the wounds heal, you don’t get this sense of terror. Well, perhaps not the way you think he should react. Being abused by Dixon and crew doesn’t trigger him, he just sucks it up. When he meets a bunch of frat brothers, who honestly look about the weight and size of those who beat the hell out of him, there is no suspicion. His way of dealing with things is in silence. A common way to handle things but being that there is so much you see that should, and could, affect him, it is like this assault become an afterthought to the story, only remembered because the pledge story needs to be paused for effect.
But even when you set aside Brad and look at Brett or even Will, again it is like there should be something deeper here. Now, with Brett you do see guilt and some kind of emotion, but between Jonas or the writing, it doesn’t take you to the point of truly feeling something. You recognize his emotions but they don’t hit you in a way to make you too feel something.
Which leads us to Will. He has no one, no brother, no friends, no girlfriend. His story, arguably, seems like the one which should not only hit hard but also be the primary focus. Yet, he is in the background. We see the abuse, him taking it for he wants all the fraternity can offer him, but with him not being the focus, but rather the bigger names of Nick Jonas and the person playing his brother, the one person who honestly could make you feel something is largely ignored.
On The Fence
You Understand The Motive
Strength in numbers, opportunities to get laid, parties, protection, brotherhood, and not having to experience college, much less living on campus, alone… All of this leads you to understand why all of these pledges go through the abuse they do. Though I must admit, even with this film likely greenlit because of its notoriety, and the mystique frats have, it would have been nice if there was a stronger presence of brotherhood, the charity frats do, and some positives. If only to balance things out a bit. They could have even mentioned other frats which do that and just make it seem Phi Sigma Mu was slipping.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
Admittedly, this was better than expected. Perhaps one of the most interesting movies I’ve watched in a few weeks. However, the pushed aside vulnerability, the sole focus being hell week and it seeming like this was more about the acts than the people and frat life in general, it what makes this rated as “Mixed.”
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