Rated: R for disturbing behavior involving hazing, strong sexual content and nudity, pervasive language, violence, alcohol abuse and some drug use. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: September 23, 2016 Released by: Film Arcade
This late entry onto the early Fall slate is a college drama not for the faint of heart drawn from an anti-hazing 2004 memoir looking at or really between the lines of the baser excess aspects of brotherhood and masculinity in fraternity life.
The crude lingo in a sometimes ghastly (hardly background oriented) Goat often includes 'bro' and 'dude' and includes an unnecessary broad cameo from producer James Franco as a free-spirited alum trying to share some sagely advice to Ben Schnetzer's Brad Land.
What's unnerving about this unrefined portrait from director Andrew Neel from a script by him, David Gordon Green and Mike Roberts is how Brad experiences the cruelty of campus life, inverted from droller, more mainstream depictions, along with his more benevolent roomie Will (Danny Flaherty). Even after choosing to forgo a bash complements of his alpha, older brother Brett (Nick Jonas, the youngest of the Jonas Bros.) and assailed by a couple of locals after a carjacking.
There's a documentary realism to the narrative to help deliver austere veracity to the subject and themes explored which has a polarizing effect as Brad still attends Brett's school, pledge his frat and enduring a sadistic Hell Week. The psychology of needing (and doing whatever it takes) to belong to this 'fellowship' has its aim to humanity through numerous atrocities while not extending beyond the periphery of this sadistic side of campus life.
A conscientious effort to honestly depict senselessness like this apparently was part of the sad extensive research by Neel, Green and Roberts who aren't expecting viewer sympathy, probably more gasps and periodic loss of eye contact with the screen. A brawny jock of a pledge master as etched with megalomania by Jake Picking is the other notable underlying player besides an effective Flaherty.
But, what clarity there is in this cruel to be kind raw scenario is the dynamic between Brad and Brett. How they evolve and come to an understanding of their psychological conditioning is to the credit of Jonas (gaining more experience from small-screen endeavors like Scream Queens and Kingdom, and learning from the effects of concert life) and especially a rangy Schnetzer (who impressed in the current Snowden as well as a gay activist in Pride). With a gritty resolve in a hedonistic, venal landscape Goat pledges earnestly through colluding lowlifes.