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dir Andrew Neel
scr David Gordon Green, Andrew Neel, Mike Roberts
prd James Franco, Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Vince Jolivette
with Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jonas, Gus Halper, Danny Flaherty, Jake Picking, James Franco, Virginia Gardner, Eric Staves, Austin Lyon, Brock Yurich, Kevin Crowley, Jon Osbeck
release UK Jun.16 slf, US 30.Sep.16
Brother to brother: Schnetzer and Jonas
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
BERLIN FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on real events, this grim exploration of frat-house culture would be difficult to watch if it weren't for the strikingly realistic characters at the centre. Ben Schnetzer and Nick Jonas deliver involving performances as brothers with complex reactions to the unbridled masculinity they find themselves in the middle of. And they both provide a strong emotional kick.
Just graduated from high school, Brad (Schnetzer) is looking forward to going to university in the autumn with his big brother Brett (Jonas). But his world-view is shaken over the summer when he is viciously assaulted by a pair of carjackers. So when he heads off to university, he's a bit nervous about the initiation process for joining his brother's fraternity. Sure enough, the hazing brings out deep psychological scars. And as he watches what his little brother is going through, Brett begins to doubt the system in which he's become a leader.
The story is very strong, with sharply depicted scenarios that draw the audience into the situation, revealing a complex variety of feelings. And side characters add all kinds of texture, from Brad's nerdy roommate (Flaherty), who decides to rush the fraternity with him, to Brett's hugely macho frat-house brothers (including Halper and Picking), who devise all kinds of nasty rites of passage, some of which involve a goat. The machismo is almost overwhelming, especially as it's so thoughtless.
Both Schnetzer and Jonas are excellent, taking the audience into the minds of these brothers as they grapple with deep issues. Other characters are a bit more straightforward, including the only proper female role (Gardner, as a girl Brad likes). There's also an extended cameo for Franco as an old boy who pops in for a timely visit, offering a rather pointed glimpse into the future of these young men.
Yes, there are several obvious touches, as well as a sudden major plot point in the final act. And there's also the issue that the hazing sequences feel like they have been staged for maximum cinematic impact, even as they are probably understating how these things actually play out. As a depiction of the very real risks of the whole fraternity system, the film has something important to say. But it's the far less glaring message that lingers, namely the surprisingly tender exploration of the bond between two brothers.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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