Friday, March 2, 2012

Project X

Project X

Rating:   Depends on if you are a teen or the parent of a teen or a homeowner.  Teen 4/5, parent / homeowner –minus 4/5

The Hangover’s Todd Phillips gets his hands on the high school generation in the raucously excessive cautionary tale of teens out of control.  He’s selling it as a triumph of teen spirit and rebellion, in a familiar ages- old formula.  Despite its extremely disturbing content, it’s a brilliantly made, beautifully paced thriller, but it will cause parents a lot of anxiety and that’s a profound takeaway.  It’s Superbad, Very Bad Things times ten for impressionable kids which is also profound.

The tone is stressful and escalating, and there’s an irrevocable tilt to destruction that you know is going to end badly.  That’s why I think, of it as a horror film, that makes this better described as a horror film, not comedy   as it describes itself.  The Hangover boys were functional adults; these are kids without the context to process what happens.  It flirts with some bad, life-threatening stuff, as a party of three becomes a living breathing entity of 1500 high teenagers.

A “Project X” party happened over in Germany last year.  Information about a teenager’s birthday house party was leaked on Facebook and 1600 people showed up, the gathering turned went rogue, fires were lit, and people were hurt.  It took 100 armed police and soldiers to quell the riot.  Similar events have occurred in the US and Australia and a quick scan of social media sites shows Project X parties are trending.

The film Project X takes us to North Pasadena California where birthday boy Thomas’ parents are leaving him alone in their well-appointed home for the weekend.   His BFF Costa, a troublemaker / leader from Queens NY and third wheel BJ are masterminding Thomas’ day.  Dex, who we only see once in the mirror, is filming it all.  Not found footage exactly, because this is a big Hollywood movie, but “home” and device footage cobbled together to document a hellish, life-changing 24 hours they will never forget.

Thomas’ parents have given him permission to have four or five friends over; they’ll call in regularly, Thomas must take their calls and they expect the house and new car in the drive to be in perfect order when they return.   Thomas they feel they can trust, but clearly they don’t know Costa’s power to manipulate him.  Costa is a royal pain who is managing Thomas’ birthday celebration to give him the party he “needs” to up his cool quotient, with no regard for Thomas’ anxieties and doubt.  Costa is also unable or unwilling to predict the likely outcome of what he’s unleashing – a social media turned real world explosion.

It’s 9.20 on party night and no one has shown up.  And then a wave of kids rush in, “hot” girls from school, vans, buses and trucks spilling kids into Thomas’ backyard.   The party is finally a success and for a few moments, they boys luxuriate in it.  But the crush of kids isn’t stopping; the house is breached as partygoers get by two adolescent security guards who are obviously over their head despite a strong show.  Thomas is mildly disturbed that he’s let down his parents and that his guests are having sex in his parents’ bedroom, using drugs, throwing up and threatening Milo his Pekinese.  At one point a dwarf is shoved into a hot oven.

Things ramp up and quickly get worse, or better depending on your age.   It’s no man’s land.  The neighbours call the cops, who are incompetent and winkingly lenient, and the party just gets stronger.   One of Costa’s coke dealer connections comes to the house for payback that you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams.

By this point, homeowners and parents in the audience are in deep shock, feeling as though they’re in a horrific thriller they can’t control as their property goes up in smoke.  Jail, poverty, a bankrupted college fund and the end of everything is the payoff.   The film is especially effective as it’s so well made and executed, but it’s hard to swallow; they just want to get home and check it over.   And then lock up their kids.  Or do they?

There is so much wrong in terms of the suggestible kids and this fall of the Roman Empire circa Pasadena 2012 that will cause plenty of controversy.  On one hand, this is a movie I wanted desperately to unsee and forget, especially the ending.   However, on the other hand, it makes for an excellent wakeup call. 

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