Debut director Nima Nourizadeh’s Project X has done the unthinkable: turn 88 minutes of every geeky teenage boy’s wet dream – a house party gone wild with the choicest consequences – into something this enjoyable. Rarely does THIS AMOUNT OF CINEMATIC FUN display such a panoply of sins; cliché, non-existent plot, lack of characterisation, ripping off of other teen films, American Apparel-style shots of naked girls with little to no reason for it, and frequently bad script-writing. But Project X is excused, because essentially, it’s a funny film about the mother of all parties, and as such all critical faculties fly out the window right with the teenage girls’ bras.
In Project X, the party is the plot, and the plot is the party. It takes every teenage party scene you’ve ever watched, doubles the drug count, multiplies the nudity, and pumps up the volume. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Skins or The OC and thought – hmmm… now that seems unlikely/ badly scripted/ disingenuous/ NOT what a teenage person would ever say or do, then you’ll feel positively refreshed by Project X. I’m sure given enough ecstasy, many would act like this.
Critiquing Project X of anything formal or structural is kind of like being that kid at a party who’s worried about the neighbours. Lighten up, dudes, have another smoke, CHILL THE FUCK OUT! Seriously, what else did you expect from a film which is sponsored by Vice magazine, directed by music video and ad man Nourizadeh (whose prior work has included music videos for Santigold, Lilly Allen and Hot Chip), and produced by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips. Accusing Project X of superficiality is like calling Terry Richardson a pervert – well duh, seriously, its not like the fashion industry gives a damn so why should you?
The film is clichéd, as it takes influence and stock characterisation from pretty much every teenage high school film out there. In my mind, it’s most reminiscent of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s Cant Hardly Wait (1998), which similarly takes the party scene and expands it to make up the whole film. I don’t have a problem with this, because through rehashing (no pun intended) other teen films, it brings the genre up-to-date. It does this through found footage style film-making – think Paranormal Activity but with pills and thrills – and the hand-held camerawork is often very impressive, immersing the viewer into the escalating madness. It’s not always sustained, often forgoing the realist angle altogether, such as when the cameraman is supposedly filming the party from atop the roof, and yet we keep switching to angles of drunken teen revellers on the ground floor rubbing each others faces.
This film is not deep, not clever, and even the advertising for this film is irritatingly “down-with-the-kidz”, encouraging rappers, hipsters and Twatters to tweet, vlog, or blog their craziest party moments. The performances are passably good, with most of the cast playing up to their stereotype with aplomb; Thomas Mann (not the German Nobel Prize Laureate) is highly convincing as a gawky teen with a heart, and Oliver Cooper is wonderfully sleazy and vile as Costa, claiming in the first five minutes that he’s ‘gonna get his dick wet’.
Project X is worth a watch, if not for the acting or plot, but really to see how far a film can push the boundaries of the stock party scene. It really, genuinely, is a thing of wonder how they managed to concoct such an escalation of madness. Think midgets shoved in ovens! A gnome filled with E! Off-their-tits teens jumping off a roof and onto a bouncy castle! The last twenty minutes or so are eerily reminiscent of the London riots – out-of-control kids are hosed down and tazered by police against a backdrop of smoke and fire. Unfortunately, I imagine this parallel is highly incidental, which is a shame, as it would have made an interesting point about modern teen culture and its (supposed) lack of morality.
It’s worth pointing out that I’m firmly within the target audience that this film has so brashly thrown its net out to, and for that I apologise. I don’t know what a parent or an owner of property will feel about this movie. What’s more, I don’t care, and I imagine they won’t either. This is 88 minutes of silly fun, without ‘The Hangover’, the teen pregnancy or the ruined property.
Contributor Sophia Satchell-Baeza can be followed on Twitter @SophiaSB1.