Apparently Project X is supposed to be a comedy, a fact that I didn’t know going in and one that I wouldn’t have guessed coming out of the cinema. Indeed, Project X is a humourless, nihilistic and morally irresponsible movie, one which was so tasteless that it was almost out for a duck in my mind for most of the experience.
And what an experience! For half the film I seriously considered leaving but resisted because it would have been poor form. So what’s it all about? Imagine a party. Done? Good. Now imagine all the banal party clichés and stereotypes – booze, drugs and sex – then toss them onto a frying pan, put the pan into a fryer and watch it all explode in an orgy of reckless stupidity and psychedelic camerawork.
This is one of those found footage films like the recent and superior Chronicle. The gist of the plot is that three high school students throw a party that will make them popular but it spirals out of control. Main character Thomas (Thomas Mann) is reluctant to host the party at his place, but it’s his birthday and his parents are away so he’s pressured into it by his peers. Tagging along are overweight nerd J.B (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and party planner Costa (Oliver Cooper), a gangsta-talking douche by way of The Sopranos, who is self-absorbed and seems to be imitating Australian party boy Corey Worthington.
In fact, the entire film feels like a silver screen adaptation of Corey’s infamous party from 2008 – but even his modest soiree of around 500 individuals pales in comparison to the thousands of destructive guests that turn up in Project X. The film only gets interesting in its last 20 or so minutes when the police arrive (finally!) as well as the flamethrower dude from Lethal Weapon 4 – but if it’s the flamethrower dude you want to see then watch Lethal Weapon 4 instead.
It’s just an ugly movie that paints a negative portrait of contemporary society, doing its damnedest to offend. My spider senses were tingling from the get-go when Costa started to sing 2 Live Crew’s ‘We Want Some Pussy’. It’s not just the kids though, as early in the film Thomas’ father calls him a loser. It’s the matter-of-fact manner in which he says it however – almost earnest – that really rankled my nerves.
It also doesn’t play by its own rules; there’s a fourth friend who’s there to record everything on camera, yet I didn’t buy into that premise. There are so many shots that don’t feel like they could have been captured, and many sequences have music overlayed (not the ambient party music) which betrays the handheld style. Crucially, towards the end, the guy who was doing the filming leaves and the movie suddenly abandons the whole found footage thing – it’s jarring and indicative of the inconsistent tone.
I could have dealt with all of the above though, as long as it was actually well directed… but that might have been asking too much of first time director Nima Nourizadeh. It feels like half of the movie is montages of people dancing, drinking, puking and screaming. Worse still, Project X glamorises the actions of its characters. It sends the message that it’s ok to break the law and rain Armageddon down upon your suburb because you’ll get the girl and be adored by your peers regardless, and without any significant repercussions. Sure, maybe if you live in Happy-Land on Lollipop Lane but not in this world. If teenage breasts are your thing then maybe Project X has something to offer you, otherwise it’s an obnoxious waste of time and best avoided like the blight it is.
From Todd Phillips, the producer of The Hangover, comes a movie that’s more likely to give you a hangover than to entertain – Project X is loud, noisy and socially reprehensible.