Project X aims to take the found footage, faux documentary style that has become the new style of film in horror to the teen sex comedy. Following a group of teens trying to throw one party to become popular overnight, a “gamechanger” of sorts, what follows is the same old sex comedy dressed up in a new format.
Thomas (Thomas Mann) is a bit of a geek with two close friends who seem to accompany him at all times: Costa (Oliver Cooper), an overtly obnoxious twit with delusions of grandeur, and J.B (Jonathan Daniel Brown), who just seems to have one character trait and that’s being overweight. Thomas’s childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton) is on the fringe of it all. It’s Thomas’s 17th birthday and the two decide to throw a good sized party to try and become popular overnight. And what starts out as an oversized party quickly spirals out of control and changes the three for the foreseeable future.
Shot through the eyes of Dax (Dax Flame), a member of the a/v club recruited to film the thing for posterity, it’s a first person look at how an out of control party develops and spirals way out of control. And constructed in a traditional narrative this is a sweet film about three kids wanting to have that rush of being somebody for once in their lives as nobodies that’s remarkably naughty and comedic that perhaps has some dramatic heft to it.
There’s a good story waiting to come out of this because it’s a near shared experience about growing up; we all want to be cool when it matters the most and rarely few of us are. It’s a near universal experience that Nima Nourizadeh sometimes taps into and the format gives him some leeway a traditional narrative wouldn’t. Adding the found footage/faux documentary style to it gives us a unique perspective as it happens from an unbiased party for the most part. We’re on the ground as it happens, which is interesting.
Unfortunately there isn’t much sweetness to the story because we don’t get to know the characters as well as we normally would in a traditional narrative.
Making a film about high sex school involving sex is always told from the perspective of the outsiders because it’s easier to sympathize with the guy who didn’t get the cheerleader while being the captain of the football team. Unfortunately you need good characters to start with which Thomas, Costa and J.B aren’t.
They are purely caricatures starting out and never evolve or develop into anything beyond that. As they progress through the night, and the aftermath that follows, it’s tougher and tougher to get emotionally invested into their narrative as it progresses. The parts of the film where we get to really know the characters is eliminated because of the format is eliminated, unfortunately, and it’s a shame because the film has some great moments. And it also has some good comedy to it as well.
With perhaps the most nudity in a film in quite some time, the film has enough comedy to at least be entertaining. While plenty of the jokes miss there’s enough hitting to overlook them. In a straight forward narrative they’d work a bit more effectively because they’d have more time to develop. The film too often feels like a music video about a party meshed in with documentary footage about it instead of the format it has. It’s too slick and too clever in that regard for its own good; there’s not as much cohesiveness because parts of the film look like a big budget film and others mimic the look it is intending to go for. But the film absolutely nails the big moments that ought to have the most resonance.
The biggest one involves Thomas as he begins to understand that his life is about to change and popularity is about to come his way. As he’s standing on the roof of his house, news choppers shining a spotlight on him, he is struck. Giving the double Stockton salute to the camera, he and Costa have the sort of moment that would mean more if we were more invested in them. Their short conversation feels powerful because it is; it’s hard to create moments like this in cinema that absolutely resonate in the moment they happen.
In a better film this is the one scene that hits you the hardest and takes it from being good to great to being a masterpiece. As he leaps off the roof and onto an inflatable bouncy castle, there’s something that taps into that current of emotion we can understand immediately. Thomas is finally having that moment in his life where he isn’t the guy that gets picked on or ignored as a loser.
He’s THE MAN from that point on and there’s no other feeling like it.
We all want to experience that and it’s palpable in the air; you can feel it. It’s exhilarating to watch, too, but unfortunately it doesn’t resonate like it ought to. Project X could’ve been a different way of looking at a film like Superbad but unfortunately looks like pale imitator instead.
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Notable Cast: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Alexis Knapp
Writer(s): Matt Drake and Michael Bacall