Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh
Premise: Three high school students attempt to raise their popularity by throwing a house party but in the course of the night it spirals out of the control.
What Works: The one positive thing to say about Project X is that the film successfully creates an illusion of reality. Most of the cast is supposed to be high school or college students and unlike some other films about young people the cast mostly look and act convincing for their age.
What Doesn’t: Project X’s problems are many. To start, the film is sloppily made. This is a found footage picture and it falls into the major pitfalls of the form. Found footage pictures generally contain themselves to a single perspective and they must always justify the reason that the footage exists. The more elaborate a found footage film gets, the harder it is to overcome those obstacles. Project X gets off on a rough start with a lame excuse for the footage; the main characters have hired one of their fellow students as a cinematographer for the party and the cameraman is a non-character who is only there as an excuse to rationalize the existence of the film. Things get worse as Project X goes on and at some point the filmmakers abandon any pretension of maintaining the found footage illusion and use conventional feature film techniques, such as cutting from one perspective to a reverse angle and back again or submerging the camera in a swimming pool. But the most serious problems of Project X are not in its filmmaking failures but in its theme. This is a party film like Porky’s, American Pie, or Superbad but the filmmakers of Project X fail to understand the genre. Most party films are narratives about young men having or attempting to have their first sexual experience and in the course of the night the men usually come to some realization about manhood, sexuality, or personal responsibility. Project X introduces three main characters who fit the profile for a typical high school film: the earnest but soft-spoken good guy, the loud mouthed instigator, and the chubby nerd. But these three teens don’t demonstrate any kind of learning curve over the course of the night; they start the film as homophobic misogynists who no one at school recognizes and by the end of the film they are homophobic misogynists who everyone at school knows by name and admires for their stupidity. And that gets to the heart of what is wrong with this film. Over the past few years the comedy genre has gotten very ugly with films like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Hangover, The Sitter, Hall Pass, and The Change-Up making comic virtues out of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and stupidity. Project X represents the newest low in this downward slide. This film abandons any pretensions for irony and congratulates itself and its characters in their ignorance and stupidity. That is evidenced by the main characters who casually enlist sexist and homophobic slurs and who never achieve any kind of epiphany about how pathetic they are. It is also evidenced in the style of the film, which borrows heavily from reality-based pornography like Girls Gone Wild. It is shot in the same way, it has the same scopophilic view of its subjects, and it is just as vacant. As the party descends into chaos, Project X finally reveals what it is about: this film is an 87-minute tribute to upper class privilege. The carnage is a self-destructive spectacle and in the end the lead characters are congratulated for their idiocy while facing no consequences for it. They have achieved their goal of climbing the social ladder by embracing some of the most hideous attitudes of our culture and the film rewards them for that.
Bottom Line: Project X represents a zenith of Hollywood’s attempt to turn stupidity, sexism, and homophobia into comedic virtues and it is the latest union of pornography with mainstream filmmaking. This film’s ugliness is matched only by its cinematic incompetence and it is hard to imagine a picture more gleefully idiotic than this.
Episode: #380 (March 18, 2012)