Goat is adapted from Brad Land’s harrowing anti-hazing memoir about an Ohio teen undergoing the tradition of demeaning abuse during Hell Week to pledge is loyalty to his selected fraternity. In a world where muscle-bound teenagers create their own rules, the relationship of two brothers, Brett (Nick Jonas) and Brad (Ben Schnetzer), is challenged by the larger brotherhood of the frat.
Goat treads well-covered territory here and suffers from digging up an 00s MTV film direction that is as shallow as it is tame. Director Andrew Neel is content applying a standard bootcamp story and dressing it up in campus attire. The main problem with Goat is Neel seems to switch between wagging his finger and bumping fists with his subject audience, which undermines the moral high ground he takes for the majority of the film. Overuse of slow-motion sensationalises the fraternity experience, and the failure to resist cheap, gross-out laughs really hampers the film’s ability to construct a compelling exposé of any new truths. Also, there are a lot of potentially interesting issues, such as privilege and the idea of inheriting ignorance, left sadly unexplored.
One saving grace is the central relationship between the brothers, which creates a tug-of-war momentum that keeps the film chugging forward. David Gordon Green’s biting critique of the fragile male ego shines through in dialogue that is well animated by Schnetzer and Jonas. The use of a closed setting pens the audience in with the animals in the zoo and reinforces the feeling that the fraternity is their entire world. The breezy cameo of James Franco as a former pledge turned Wall Street type helps alleviate the atmosphere of self-inflicted suffering and hints at the theme of privilege. Altogether, a confused film that offers few surprises or insights.
Goat does not have a UK release date yet.
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