Current film lovers cannot escape from facing James Franco. He is literally everywhere. Goat is a movie with dozens of young talented actors, most of them unknown to the general public, and suddenly there is a familiar face. Franco’s single but over-repeated line is “Punch me in the face!” Is it possible to ignore him?
Not at all. And you also shouldn’t ignore Goat. Ben Schnetzer is Brad Land, a 19-year-old college student who pledges the same fraternity as his brother, Bratt (Nick Jonas). The title refers to a brotherhood in Ohio that tests its members’ machismo in brutal ways. The feature is based on Land’s memoir, and director Andrew Neel was fortunate enough to have James Franco in his team as both an actor and the producer. Franco has had the rights to turn the book into a film for more than 10 years. The fist reached its aim: to knock the audience down. Goat is a manual guide on how to initiate college freshmen in Neo-Nazi torture.
Great part of the film’s appeal is due to the acting. The boys are excellent, both in solo scenes and together. Other features that casted promising young actors include Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986) and The Lost Boys (Joel Schumacher, 1987), which revealed the then-unknown Kiefer Sutherl and River Phoenix.
Another dirty aspect of Goat is the disturbing behaviour of the senior students. The film was rated R in the US for hazing, strong sexual content and nudity, pervasive language, violence, alcohol abuse and drug use. The psychological scars Brad had to recover from are similar to someone who’s suffered from traumatic war experiences, but Brad was just a regular student who wanted to please his brother and colleagues.
Neel fessed up to DMovies that the environment in the set was a little tense. The filmmaker showed films like Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987) and Dead Poet’s Society (Peter Weir, 1989) to the young actors in order to set the right mood. He also said that the “scene with James Franco was a long improvisation of about 40 minutes in a single take”.
Land has a feeling that we will never be normal again. The most painful and extreme moment in the movie is when he and the other boys are threatened to have sexual intercourse with a goat. Freshmen who belonged to Goat Fraternity were constantly interrupted in their studies and were forced to behave like beasts.
The worst case scenario turns into reality when one of the boys dies. Consequently, members of the fraternity freak out and truth comes to surface. The end is not actual a redemption, but it is close to it. Nonetheless the heritage of Goat points out to a very delicate American tradition which is permissive to abuse.
You have a single chance to watch Goat at Sundance London, on Friday June 3rd. Click here for more information about the event and watch the film trailer below: