I first saw Project X last year, but I didn’t get around to writing my review. Sometimes the reason is that I just overfill my schedule and sometimes I just want to give a film a second viewing before making up my mind. With Project X, it was both.
It’s a teen movie, all about a party that gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And it’s mostly filmed in the found-footage style (with a standard videocamera, with numerous phones, with dashboard-cams, etc. etc.) just to add an extra element to possibly put people off. Thomas Mann plays the birthday boy, Thomas (yes, the annoying thing about a lot of movies done in this style is that actors don’t even have to remember a different name), and he’s persuaded into throwing a big party while his parents are away. It’s his friend, Costa (Oliver Cooper), doing the persuading, while JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and Dax (Dax Flame) lend their silent approval to the whole thing. They all want the party to be a success, it has to be BIG, but they also want to keep things manageable – look after the house, keep peace with the neighbours and don’t let things get too crazy. DON’T let things get too crazy. Famous last words.
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh, and written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall, this is a movie also made up from a lot of improvised moments. That’s expected, considering the amount of crazy party antics being shown and the amount of different cameras available to point and shoot everything. Paradoxically, all of the looser, improvised moments take place in and around a number of plot points that allow for some impressive tonal shifts between light comedy and dark pain while also fleshing out numerous characters, both the leads and the plentiful supporting players.
The acting by all concerned is excellent. This may not be the type of movie that you watch to see the next Paddy Considine developing before your very eyes, but it’s full of youngsters all doing a fantastic job of acting in a fairly natural style. The leads are especially good, but young Brady Hender and Nick Nervies excel as boys hired to provide security, Kirby Bliss Stanton is sweet as the female friend of Thomas who may or may not become more and the adults also get to have a lot of fun – Martin Klebba almost steals the show as “angry little person”, Rob Evors is very good as a neighbour who tries to talk to the kids when the party has gone on long enough and Pete Gardner is hilarious as the “older guy” who turns up and looks like a mixture of creepy and sad while he parties hard with the kids.
The reason I gave some thought to Project X before writing up this review, the reason I had to watch it at least twice, is because it was marketed and sold as one big, outrageous teen party romp. Which, for a lot of the runtime, it is. It takes the tried and tested formula that John Hughes put to such good use in the ’80s – the one crazy night that can change your reputation at high school and, therefore, your whole life – and it gives it a 21st century spin. However, it also shows how quickly things can be ruined. If you’ve ever been at a great party that’s gone on just that bit too long, if you’ve ever been dancing and happy one minute and then pushed out of the way while a fight breaks out the next, then the danger and souring of the good time will all be very familiar, no matter what age you are. It looks at some of the consequences of those stunts that seemed so cool at the time, it shows the people who never know when to stop and it somehow manages to be energetic and cool while also serving as a warning about the cost of popularity among those who don’t value anything not directly connected to themselves. That’s what makes Project X something more impressive than just a film about teenagers having a huge party.
DIRECTOR: NIMA NOURIZADEH
WRITER: MATT DRAKE, MICHAEL BACALL
STARS: THOMAS MANN, OLIVER COOPER, JONATHAN DANIEL BROWN, DAX FLAME, KIRBY BLISS BLANTON, BRADY HENDER, NICK NERVIES, ALEXIS KNAPP, MILES TELLER, MARTIN KLEBBA, PETE GARDNER
RUNTIME: 88 MINS APPROX