I’m still trying to put together the story properly in my head even though I was very attentive while watching it. I watched it because it was one of the official selections for Sundance Festival and the trailer popped out Nick Jonas and James Franco.
James Franco has nothing to do in the movie. His shot is more of a cameo and only offers a tiny glimpse into what the “brothers” really grow up to be. He is just supposed to stay for a beer when he comes visiting the fraternity because he is now a dad and needs to get home and take care of his kid. However, he ends up crashing there big time and gets so wasted that he passes out after vomiting over himself. I have spent more time writing this then James has acting in the movie. So, James Franco? Misleading advertising.
Neither Ben Schnetzer nor Nick Jonas felt like stellar actors – they swung from kind of bad to moderately good. There was a lot of scope for Ben’s character but then again, the story wasn’t written too well so he had limited options.
Brad (Ben Schnetzer) suffers through a traumatic experience after giving a lift to two complete strangers after a party night. They beat him up and steal his car. He doesn’t fight back and while still suffering from PTSD of sorts, he also feels guilty that he did not fight back (the investigating officer is suspicious about the whole not fighting back thing – that was a good scene). Maybe he is a pussy. Hence, when the ‘hell week’ begins at the fraternity that he is aiming to join, he is hell bent on proving that he is made of sterner stuff.
Nonetheless, when the police apprehends one of his attackers, he refuses to go and identify him because he has spent the past six months trying to get over it all.
Meanwhile, Brett, Brad’s older brother, who is already a fraternity member, also has some guilt that Brad got attacked and gradually hates seeing what the hell week is doing to his younger brother.
Hell Week is dirty, disgusting and infuriating. But I can honestly say that it is much worse than shown here and if they are not going to show that the pledgers are often raped and sexually harassed in innumerable ways, then, sorry, you’re missing out some real shit. Mud and rotten food and vomit and golden showers are disgusting. Beatings and caging are disgusting. But there are much lower levels of depravity that go on in this hazing that were skipped. So I’m docking points for that. Goat is essentially about hazing. So show it all. It is the 21st century. We know.
Anyway, then a guy dies. But it is not Brad. It is Brad’s roommate but he still shields the fraternity. It is Brett (the older brother) who speaks up (yes, they could have made the names less confusing, but they didn’t). An example of real courage for the younger brother? Possibly. Because then, finally, Brad goes to ID his attacker.
Brett tells him it is not his fault.
They go back to the crime site.
And that is it.
I understand that Brad needed to know that it is not his fault. But the story was very lukewarm and missed all its potential. It could have been a gritty, emotional movie. However, I feel that the script was written by someone who has not invested enough into hazing research – about how emotionally wrecking it can be. The pledgers are expecting all the shit they are put through and willing to go through it without any breakdowns? Nothing quite prepares one for hazing even though it is ‘expected’. And even though a guy would know that bigger and better things are at the end of it, there will at least be one guy who will suffer something more than merely physical repercussions. The steady acceptance is not universal. So, yes, maybe the things as they are make it the story of Goat but it still feels very flat and false – just like advertising that it stars James Franco when Franco barely has a minute or two of screen time.
My major complaint is that if you are going to prefix your movie with ‘based on actual events’, then don’t fall so terribly short of every expectation.
You can watch it if you want. There are much worse movies out there. But Goat completely failed to impress me. I didn’t even bother about who directed and wrote it because it was so terribly unimpressive.
P.S. Is the whole nudity in opening credits going to be a thing? This and the strangers in night attacking are two things that reminded me of Nocturnal Animals.