goat

When violence and privilege collide you usually end up with movies such as The Godfather (at best) or The Purge (at worst). Very rarely does the film industry take an honest look at the complexities or violence, especially the role it plays in the development of young men in this country. Goat tackles this issue, and it does it with a punch to the gut.

After young college student Brad (Ben Schnetzer) survives a brutal carjacking/assault, he tries to put his life back together. His brother Brett (Nick Jonas) encourages him to get back to “normal life” by talking him into rushing his fraternity. But if it is violence Brad is trying to get away from, the frat may not be the best place.

This movie is an unexpected treat. It had the odds stacked against it, with its low budget, uncomfortable subject matter and inclusion of one of the Jonas brothers in the cast (who, as it turns out, can actually act). But it manages to be engrossing while only being slightly over the top. The drinking is pervasive (as it almost always is in college). The sex, much like the violence, isn’t glamorized; it’s just there, even if it is always between beautiful people. It is a movie after all. In fact, none of the debauchery is glamorized at all. It would be wrong to say this film has a documentary feel to it, but its influence is there.

If the movie suffers from anything it is the fact that it is hard to sympathize with any of the characters, especially the protagonist. Granted, the level of bullying he endures from the first ten minutes of the film until it’s inevitable, harsh ending is rough, but without giving anything away let’s just say that Brad’s character arc is more of a jagged stock market chart. Although the almost complete absence of any minority characters is realistic, it is noticeable. Thus the earlier reference to a documentary feel.

Fraternities, especially at certain Universities, are subconsciously (and, sadly, sometimes intentionally) racist. The male bonding that goes on in the film, and the system it portrays, has a very white feel to it. That comment can be taken however the reader sees fit, but it seems as if Goat can’t decide if the conflict it wants to demonstrate is one of class as the tone changes throughout the film.

At the end of the day, Goat is a warning. A well-made warning all about the dangers of taking things for granted, and what happens when young men are only allowed to express emotions through their fists.