Saturday, March 3, 2012


A movie about three high school losers trying to make a name for themselves by throwing a crazy, out of control party has absolutely no right being this good. It's colossally irresponsible, reprehensible, morally vacant, carnally raunchy, every teenager's wet dream and every parent's worst nightmare.

Comprised of a bunch of nobodies, first-time director Nima Nourizadeh pulls off something astounding. Conventional wisdom tells me to hate everything about this movie, but something about it is impossible to dismiss. It's the perfect post-Oscar remedy. It's a bold, brave and daring movie made with ingenuity no matter what the subject. Produced by Todd Phillips, Nourizadeh is simultaneously channeling "The Hangover" while smashing it to bits one-upping the chaos and debauchery at every turn. It's the "Animal House" of this generation, which doesn't completely work as a compliment. But it does make you look at how far our youth have come.

The title of "Project X" works in that it's not called "Best Party Ever" or "Epic Party" -- instead, it's labeled as a project, an experiment in filmmaking. While the found footage, shaky cam, making a documentary style is nothing original (see earlier this year's "Chronicle"), doing such to capture a huge party sort of is. It's a drunken "Cloverfield," a terrifying-in-a-whole-different-way "Paranormal Activity" and an even more disorienting "Blair Witch Project." And for being 2012, it marks the perfect apocalyptic, destructive party at the end of the world. Everything that could go wrong does, and it's all for Thomas (Thomas Mann), a nobody high schooler celebrating his 17th birthday with his two best friends.

Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the spearhead of the trio. With an obnoxious personality but enough charisma to get a crowd going, Costa invites everyone at their school sending out mass texts and email blasts to make sure Thomas' birthday bash isn't a bust. JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) is the schlub of the group, the down-on-his-luck third wheel who actually has a hidden attitude and recklessness about him. The fourth of the group is the camera man, Dax, who remains mostly unseen but gets a shot of every bit of the action.

Before Thomas' parents leave for the weekend, his dad warns him that nobody better lay a finger on his Mercedes. Well isn't that a dead giveaway? The party goes from an unassuming 50 attendants to an explosion of 1,500 party-goers going hard -- really hard. To say things get excessive is an understatement, and we get to experience every detail. Fast-edited montage sequences capture the sweat, booze, puke, pulsating bodies, fist pumping, crotch grinding, bare breasts, flashing neon lights, and it's all set to a bumping soundtrack. It's pure party mayhem with mad tonal shifts flickering between awe and dread of the impending repercussions for Thomas when the sun comes up. And this is all before a ceramic gnome gets shattered with a baseball bat scattering Ecstasy pills all over the lawn.

The thing about this movie in its pushing the limits of taste is that it feels real. Comedies have grown grosser and more outrageous as the years have gone by, and this one is just the next step. It's in the same way horror films have progressed and gotten gorier, more graphic. This isn't necessarily a good thing, but it certainly is a reality. I sat with my mouth agape not believing what I was seeing. I spent more time in absolute shock than I did laughing. You walk out of the theater talking about it into the next day like you were there, and I think that that's exactly the point. "Project X" is a VIP pass to the best party you've never been to.

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