Project X (2012)


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Project X is a reprehensible movie that just vomited on your sneakers. It’s the sweat-stained armpit of a 3-day-worn t-shirt that someone just threw in your face, and it’s the public urination and defecation on your front lawn – and it thinks its awesome for being these things.

Based on the notorious shenanigans of one lump of primordial ooze by the name of Corey Worthington, Project X is about a highschool party that gets completely out of hand. Worthington’s own affair was passed around on MySpace and radio stations, before over 500 people caused $20, 000 worth of damage to his house and neighbourhood.

The two main tracts of thinking at the time were (the correct) “What a little shithead!” and (the subjective) “What an awesome party!” News of the story broke around the world, Worthington had a flash-in-the-pan attempt at milking his celebrity (Big Brother “celebrity” guest. Success, apparently) and most people attempted to move on, while somewhere in the fiery bowels of Hollywood, someone greenlit a movie.

Now Project X doesn’t try to be a biopic of the events that happened in real life, and it’s tried to distance itself from Worthington and his fuckery, but it’s the same deal – teens throw a party that gets ridiculously out of control.

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At the centre of this “story” (which tries for the found footage gimmick to excruciating tedium) is Thomas, a meek kid who is bullied harangued into throwing a party by his worst-part-of-the-terrible-movie “friend” Costa. Thomas’s parents have gone away for the weekend (terrible script tries to pass this off with a line about how Thomas is born on their anniversary – pretty sure most parents would hang about for their son’s birthday) and Costa is determined to throw a party with the sole intention of getting himself laid.

There’s also JB, their even meeker friend who comes along almost solely so that Costa can hurl obscenities at more than just the protagonist, and also Dax, the cameraman of the film who’s so underutilised as a character that it’s obvious how much the movie didn’t need the found-footage gimmick.

The boys set about the planning of the party (Thomas insisting that the numbers be restricted to 30, then 40, then 50 because Costa’s a dick and keeps pushing him to go further) and other small elements like actually attending school – where we meet Kirby, a girl Thomas clearly has a bit of a thing for.

After school, they go to a drug dealer in a skeezy part of town despite plenty of other opportunities (actual line: “This shit is wholesale!”) and then steal a garden gnome as “mascot for the party” and if you can’t tell why a drug dealer would be keeping garden gnomes, then you’re as dumb as this movie’s target audience.

Then, after 24 excruciating minutes of pointlessness, the movie begins proper, with the party itself.

Now, the rest of the movie (except for a wrap-up scene) is the increasingly raucous behaviour of the teens at this party. So if you think spending an hour with a raging throng of self-absorbed, vapid and brainless teenagers is fun, then grab your popcorn and a copy of Project X.

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It’s not that it’s a “party movie” that’s the problem, it’s that nothing of any significance happens. There are no stakes or underlying plot threads to tie everything together, except that Thomas’ parents forbade such a party, but that holds absolutely no meat in terms of plot.

What we’re treated to instead is a hell of a lot of underage drinking (which is no big deal – I drank underage – but it’s not particularly interesting to watch), far too many shots of nubile ladies getting progressively more and more undressed to consider the montages anything other than perving, and things escalating out of control.

At one point, three random partygoers get into a fight with a little person and lock him in the oven. When released, said little person makes his way through the house punching every guy he comes across – the movie thinks this is utterly hilarious, and also his imprisonment in the oven. There’s no context. There’s no character. There’s no reason to find this enjoyable except that the movie wants you to laugh at the randomness of it.

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Later, when the garden gnome is smashed and obviously contained a fuckton of ecstasy, everyone at the party gets high as kites while the movie films them in long loving closeups of ingestion. The kids are all sweaty and worn out, red-eyed and completely utterly off their faces, and the movie frames every shot and films every scene as though you’re meant to be idolising how cool they are and how amazing this party would be if you were there. Plenty of people will agree with that, but I think it’d be fucking awful.

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The movie is glorifying the disruptive behaviour that the party comprises. Of course since the film’s release there have been numerous copycat parties (including one where a teen was killed) and this could only have been expected by the filmmakers while they put this together. The party and all its unruly excess is fetishised for the audience (assuming they’re as impressionable as the marketing hopes) and while it makes it tiring to watch a film that has a “kick-ass” party that you aren’t actually attending, it inevitably comes off as though the filmmakers are just living vicariously through their characters.

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The seemingly “nice” characters in the movie, Thomas and Kirby are nice in as much as they aren’t Costa, but are relatively boring and lacklustre as actual characters. That’s about the most I can say in favour of any of the writing.

But the bland characters, chaotic party, sleazy and dirty atmosphere it tries to present as being amazing would all be forgivable and I would dismiss this movie as just not being my thing, if the movie wasn’t spearheaded by one of the most disgusting excuses for character or performance I’ve seen in a long time.

Oliver Cooper plays the role of Costa, the brash, loud-mouthed, incessantly obnoxious, homophobic, misogynistic and outright reprobate “friend” of Thomas who manipulates everyone into hosting this party. The role, much of which seems to have been largely improvised by Copper is one of the most reprehensible characters I have ever come across, not least of all because the movie wants you to side with him as an “irritating-yet-lovable” goof. Costa’s actions are sadistic at best, psychopathic at worst, and the performance from Cooper, clearly trying to imitate Jonah Hill’s already-grating schtick, but without the added sense of heart that makes Hill’s characters relatable, is like having bamboo shoved under your nails. This movie is a chore to watch, but when so much of it is focussed on a heinous little shit like Costa, it becomes excruciating.

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I was never going to like Project X on the grounds that it’s not the sort of movie that’s made for someone with my sensibilities. I like partying well enough and went to a few ragers in my time, but the spectacle on show here doesn’t come across as enjoyable in the slightest. But the inclusion of Oliver Cooper’s degenerate scumbag of a character not only makes it a difficult movie to get through, but actively puts me on side against what little hope the film had to begin with. If you look at a movie like Chronicle, (which also came out last year and focuses on three guys of around about the same age), the party scenes in that film worked because there were characters to understand at the heart of it. Project X gives us people with names and leaves them to their own devices thereafter

And sure, maybe you’ll like this movie, if you honestly can’t think of a more worthwhile thing to idolise in your life, or if you find the scenario enviable or attractive to the inner irresponsible teen. I’ll throw you a bone and say that one of my best friends enjoyed this movie, and I don’t think anything less of him as a result of that. Maybe it does just come down to my perception of a party like the one in this movie affecting my ability to like the movie.

The soundtrack also has moments of adequateness, when it’s not a bunch of two-bit rap songs underscoring the semi-pornographic montages of naked teenage girls, but even then, it makes me sad that acts like The Kills or The xx are appearing on a soundtrack for a movie so completely devoid of reasons to recommend.

But at the end of the day, when your movie is a thinly-veiled attempt to make an idol out of this little fuckhead, then I think you’re on your own in trying to justify its enjoyability:

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Subtle comparison too.

 This is a movie that tries to make heroes out of complete and utter douchebaggery. This is a movie that shows the worst of the teenage years and offers it up in slathering form for teens to emulate. I think the movie is irresponsible. I think the movie is depressing. I think the movie is boring. There’s not a single thing about the movie that I would recommend to anyone. This is a film of named people, and not a single character among them.

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