Project X Reviews
Thomas (Thomas Mann) is a gawky, awkward, nice kid who's celebrating his 17th birthday. His upper middle-class parents are going away for the weekend and trusting their only child with care of the home. Naturally, Thomas' best friends, Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), take this opportunity to stage a party. They invite all the popular girls at school, spread word via radio and Craiglist, and hundreds descend on Thomas's family grounds with the intent of partying harder than Andrew W.K. Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton), long a friend of Thomas, is crushing on the guy and he doesn't realize it. His attentions are on Alexis (Alexis Knapp), the school's unattainable Hot Girl. As Costa clarifies, this party is meant to be a game-changer for their social lives. They're supposed to reach for the stars tonight, which means groping strangers and puking in the bushes. Aim high, boys.
This did not have to be a found footage movie, and Project X would have been better if stripped of this tedious gimmick. By making this a found footage movie, it roots the quickly escalating madness in a reality that cannot contain it. The film's credibility goes out the window without a thought. A wild party that rages out of control is a believable setup, but when you toss in so many out-of-nowhere outlandish elements, including an angry midget, a crazed drug dealer armed with a flame thrower, and a high-story zipline (who put that there?), and the groundswell of a consequences-free riot, you strain all sense of believability. I also found it unrealistic how blasé people reacted to the presence of a camera in certain situations. I think people at a school might not want to be recorded for who knows what purpose. But easily the scene that stands out is a locker room with a bunch of guys in various states of undress. Seriously, not one character, not even a minor character, raises any issue with someone casually recording a place where men are undressing. I'll grant the exhibitionist antics of the party (the courts of our land have ruled that flashing is not considered an "invasion of privacy"). Then there are also the lighting changes at Thomas' house. All of a sudden certain rooms have very distinct, stylish blues and greens for lighting. Where did that come from? Did someone find a colorful bulb? These are the dumb questions that arise under the belabored pretenses of a found footage movie. There's no reason this movie shouldn't have ditched the found footage gimmick and simply played it straight.
Congratulations Project X, for it was you who cemented the death knell of my youth. I don't have anything against party movies (Superbad is great, Can't Hardly Wait ain't bad either) and I don't shrink from the presence of ribald, juvenile, inappropriate and/or illegal underage activity. Dazed and Confused is one of my favorite films of all time and that movie is nothing but kids getting drunk and stoned. But lo, Project X was the first party movie I've watched where my sympathies lay not with the party animals but with the annoyed neighbors and parents. Maybe it's a sign of getting older; maybe it's just the culmination of my upstairs neighbors playing heavy-bass electronica music at all hours of the night when I have to work in the morning. Or maybe it's just a clear indication that this movie fails on any level to make me care about these moronic, annoying, unbearable characters. So when these twits are off celebrating the wanton hedonism unleashed in their backyards, I thought of the neighbor with a baby who just wants his kid to sleep. Is that an unreasonable request? The man isn't presented as some incensed, dangerous madman, and what does he get for daring to question the noise level of this party? The man gets tazed. That's what you get for expecting anyone to possibly be moderately considerate about their action affecting others (I sense a God Bless America-style rant approaching). I just found this whole thoughtless, empty exercise to be exploitative, mean-spirited, and exhausting. Am I that old or is this movie simply that bad?
You want to know how flimsy the plot is for this monstrosity? You could have written the entire thing on a napkin. Why bother with characters or story? This movie is seriously like someone took the Smashing Pumpkins music video for "1979" (possibly the best cruising song, I would argue) and expanded it to feature length. Even at barely 80 minutes, this is one creaky movie that struggles to pad out its running time. The party mostly consists of two-second shots of people jumping around, girls shaking their asses, people smashing things, people vomiting, and the occasional boob flash to remind you how similar in tone the film is to the sleazy Girls Gone Wild series. That's at least half the movie, if I'm being generous. What did I just describe? A music video! A music video is composed of, often, nonsensical images that serve little purpose other than to stimulate. There are plenty of segments that are nothing but pounding music and people dancing. If you buy the soundtrack (and why wouldn't you since it'll be ringing in your ears for days) and do some pseudo-inebriated dance movies, you've basically recreated the plot in your own living room. Project X is a music video writ large, not just in its style or in its single-minded execution to do nothing but string a series of rapid imagery. Good Lord, if this stuff made the final film what was left on the cutting room floor?
Project X also has the ignoble distinction of making me loathe a character not just in his very introduction but also in the very opening SECOND of the film. The first second I got of Costa told me everything I needed to know. His smarmy, irritating, faux "gangsta" machismo persona was enough. I knew this guy was going to be a douchebag. One second in, Project X, and you've already dug yourself a pretty significant hole. The Costa character is unfunny from beginning to end. There is not a single joke, a single one-liner, a single reaction of his that made me laugh. He is an insufferable character and a transparent combination of Superbad's McLovin' and Jonah Hill's character. I hated every wretched second his face was onscreen. The other two friends didn't make me want to punch my TV, which was the only positive thing I could say about either of them. Thomas is your typical mild-mannered, awkward teen (read: the Michael Cera role) who gets to cut loose and grow a spine of sorts. He has no personality and I couldn't work up the effort to root for him. I can't really say anything about JB because he adds absolutely nothing to the movie. He has no personality as well, other than his girth and desire to bed some ladies. It's like the movie forgets he even exists. I know I did.
I know that making a feminist diatribe against this movie is a waste of time but indulge me for a moment, dear reader. I understand that this entire enterprise is untamed male fantasy and wish fulfillment. I don't have a problem with this notion, on the surface. But why do all the women of this fantasy have to be reduced to, in Costa's words, "drunk bitches" and "hos"? The women of this universe, which is supposed to be our own remember, are merely walking toys ready to be exploited for male entertainment. We don't get characters; we get attractive women in great states of exhibitionism. It's ridiculous the amount of older, attractive women who would be enticed by... a high school party? Don't these people have college parties they'd rather be attending? At one point JB identifies one of the girls at the party as a woman who posed for Playboy, because that's all women are good for in this movie. Why would Alexis agree to bed Thomas just because it's his birthday? We see no connection, and he's certainly not a wealth of charisma. It doesn't matter. Women are to be ogled. They are decorative.
Then there's the aggravating romance between Thomas and his best girl friend, Kirby. First off, if this is the quality you get with girl-next-door types then I am moving to that neighborhood. This woman is a bonafide hottie, so when the guys make dismissive comments that Kiby is just one of the guys, I question what criteria these men have for female beauty. Any of these guys would be lucky to ever interest a woman of this stature. And then there's the fact that she so easily forgives of Thomas after he makes an ass of himself and tries to hook up with another girl hours after sleeping with Kirby. It's like the movie advertising that you, American teenage males, can have it all and with a minimum of humility and empathy.
I guess the real question is whether any of this gratuitous debauchery is fun. The whole movie runs on the caffeinated, fist-pumping highs of unchecked male ego and fantasy, but it's trying so hard to be the most epic party ever, and that's the only ambition the film has. This is one sleazy and off-putting movie. Even some of its egregious faults could be partially forgiven if the movie was any funny. It just isn't. It's loud and profane and anarchic but without interesting, relatable, or even defined characters, and the plot is so feeble I could sum it up thusly: Nerds throw party. Crap happens. They get to be cool. In between those momentous plot points is a lot of incoherent imagery of people dancing, women being objectified (by the camera, the filmmakers, the audience), and pounding music. The plot is so simplistic, so plainly an afterthought, that the entire hedonistic festivity reeks of lazy exploitation. Congratulations, Project X, you've turned me into my parents. Now get the hell off my lawn and get a job and make better movies!
Nate's Grade: D
"The Party You've Only Dreamed About"
Project X knows its target audience and gives them just what they want, and what they want isn't a great movie. They want drinking, drugs, sex, loud music, and tons and tons of naked boobies. That's all the American teenager wants and that's what we're given with Project X. I belong to that target audience. I just graduated high school and am getting ready to go to college. Partying's a big part of anybody around my age's life. This movie was fun to watch because of my age, but I can't say it was a good movie, because it isn't.
Project X is a lot of slow motion dancing, drinking, and making out. At times the movie is cool. At other times, it seems like they're just trying to make it to a respectable runtime. It is what it is. That's what I like about it. It isn't trying to be anything more than a party movie. Thomas' parents are going out of town for the weekend and leave him in charge of the house. Thomas isn't the type of guy to throw a big party, but his friend Costa takes over. He invites everybody, and soon the party is fucking huge. There's a midget, there's an old guy hanging around, there's topless girls everywhere, there's an ecstasy filled Gnome. As far as just the party goes, it has everything. Obviously things get out of control though, but it doesn't really play out like a cautionary tale for Thomas, which was kind of surprise and a disappointment.
Basically this movie is just a commercial for partying, which makes sense seeing as it was directed by someone who had only made commercials beforehand. It's fun, forgettable entertainment. The film is pretty pointless, and doesn't serve any purpose at all, but that's alright. Probably not necessary viewing for anyone over the age of twenty five, but for anyone who's inside that target range; you should enjoy yourself just enough to Mae this 80 minute runtime worth the watch.
Project X has a nice pace to it; its descent into chaos is just as gradual as it should be, and filled with peaks and valleys of dramatic tension and raging euphoria. Unlike the other early-2012 teenage romp 'Chronicle', the found footage genre helps sell realism rather than detract from the experience. Project X has some great editing, and also unlike 'Chronicle', never stretches to find ways to present the 'found footage' from interesting yet believable angles. Its most compelling asset, however, is Oliver Cooper's performance as Costa, the impetus for pretty much everything that inevitably goes wrong in the film's basic party-out-of-control plot.
Costa is a terrible person, yes. He is selfish, obscene, controlling, overly-confident, and most notably, cruel. Many of the 'jokes' in the film are simply him calling another character fat or gay, which is only funny if you laugh when someone in real life calls someone else fat or gay. You would't find that funny, you say? Good for you, you aren't this film's audience, and thank God for that.
The thing about Cooper's performance is, that despite playing such a terrible person, its such a real portrayal that I'm tempted to say the young actor is likely just as obnoxious in real life, and isn't giving a staged 'performance' at all. Whether or not that's the case, it's fascinating that we're given such a pitch-perfect glimpse at a very specific type of person - privileged suburban Jews, something I've experience way too much and far too often. In comparison to Costa's boisterousness, the other characters like the pushover Thomas whose house Costa is basically wholly responsible for trashing, are only solidly performed.
The big problem with Costa is that he represents his entire generation (and the film overall) - cruel and noisy. You know, the generation that loves doing stupid things, living in the moment without dwelling on pesky consequences, making sure to maintain a constant stream of expletives and (if you're a male) misogyny during speech, and most importantly, making sure to record it all if possible so everyone can see everything. This is the generation that is going to inherit the world, and for all of those who claim it's the worst generation of young people ever, Project X certainly feels like an affirmation.
The scary thing is that Project X was written by adults, as if to say "don't worry kids, some adults (like us) are cool and hip and want you to know that it is okay to be idiots, hurt people and destroy property, and that any pesky consequence like police officers, parental punishment, losing college funds, and physical injury are just obstacles that keep you from the real goal, having as much fun as possible at the expense of anyone that isn't you." Instead of someone making a movie that reprimands this generation for being so mean and egocentric, someone went ahead and made a movie that rewards them. The ending almost holds the characters responsible for their actions, but decides to veer off in the final minutes for a completely undeserved happy ending.
If the multiple "Project so-and-so" parties that have occurred in the real world since Project X released is any indication, this can only lead to a perpetual amplification of the same behavior. It's almost as if the hilariously extreme nature of the party is a prophecy that kids are being asked to fulfill, if not one-up it. Studios spending money making movies should be more responsible...but hey, Project X probably would have made less money had it not given young idiots exactly what they want.
So despite all of it's cultural implications, Project X is decently put together. It's short, breezy escapism that actually benefits from its found-footage gimmick. It's also one of the few R-rated movies being sold directly to those who can and will only watch it illegally. That, to me, perfectly indicates why, for all it does right, Project X is a film that can ultimately only do more harm than good. At one point, a group of high school freshman are told, "this is a party for grown-ups!" They are told this by a particularly immature SEVENTEEN year old. Like the movie as a whole, that line would have been amazing satire, if only the movie was being satirical. But it's not, so Project X is instead an ominous indication of how American teenagers think, and what direction our youth is headed.
3 high school seniors throw a birthday party to make a name for themselves. As the night progresses, things spiral out of control as word of the party spreads.
The "big party" is one of the classical subjects in the juvenile comedies, and it has been used by some of the most iconic films of the genre, from its innocent beginnings (Gidget, Bleach Blanket Bingo) to its peak during the '80s (Weird Science, Sixteen Candles) and the '90s (American Pie, Can't Hardly Wait). Now, Project X follows the tradition, bringing a more modern (translation: more rude and vulgar) sensibility to the recipe, along with the currently fashionable visual style: the "home video". The result isn't very memorable, but the film made me laugh enough times in order to make it worthy of a moderate recommendation.
For better or for worse, Project X is a natural evolution of the juvenile comedy transformed into a "reality show", leaving the modesty and messages from the John Hughes (1950-2009) era behind, in order to hug the Youtube generation, in which nothing is real unless it's taped, shared and "liked" by friends (and strange people, of course). So, even though Project X lacks of well built characters, logical structure or formal narrative, but it works moderately well as a parade of instantaneous gags, and as a depiction of the perverse voyeuristic pleasure of capturing the people on their worst moments.
Director Nima Nourizadeh brings a dynamic rhythm to Project X, something which doesn't leave any place to the boredom. On the other hand, I found the characters of Project X a bit antipathetic - even though there are a few moments in which they are partially redeemed by their sincere emotions and fleeting moments of humanity. As for the performances, I found them all credible and natural. So, in conclusion, Project X is very far from being a remarkable juvenile comedy, but I have to admit that it made me have a good time in spite of that.
Insanely fun movie! Project X feels like the combination of Superbad and The Hangover shot in the same style you saw in Chronicle. Project X doesn't play it safe. It takes risks. In a genre as trite and tortuously redundant as the teen sex comedy or even adult comedies in general, Project X is fresh and even touching. Unabashedly high-concept, yet oddly low key and nuanced. It also features what is possibly the most spot-on realistic party footage you'll ever see in a fiction film. This is the sort of film you will either hate or love. This is the sort of film where you have to let yourself go, forget about storyline, plot devices etc. Just go in there for the ride, sit back and let yourself be taken into this absolutely crazy party, that you may or may not love to experience.
Three seemingly anonymous high school seniors attempt to finally make a name for themselves. Their idea is innocent enough - let's throw a party that no one will forget, and have a camera there, to document history in the making. But nothing could prepare them for this party. Word spreads quickly as dreams are ruined, records are blemished and legends are born.