Movie Review: ‘GOAT’ explores the pyschological effects of brotherhood vs. hazing in this fraternity drama

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James Cole Clay  // Film Critic

GOAT | 96 min | R
Director: Andrew Neel
Cast: Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jonas, Gus HalperDanny FlahertyVirginia GardnerJake Picking and James Franco

Full disclosure: the writer of this review was in a fraternity at a major American university.

Fraternities across the country pride themselves on being high-minded gentlemen who all abide by a creed to spread altruism to their respective communities. They also party… A LOT.

The public perception of Greek life has waned in recent years with horror stories of sexual assault and deathly hazing. These issues have started to form a formal discourse all across our country.

The lowkey Sundance darling GOAT depicts actions such as these in a heightened, yet realistic portrayal of the bond of brotherly loved formed through hazing.

It’s a bit difficult to write about this topic without bringing my own biases and experiences into the film. The stage is set one night at pre-rush party (rush is where fraternities essentially recruit and interview potential members), where two brothers Brad and Brett (Ben Schnetzer and Nick Jonas) are boozing the night away– the former is seeking membership into an ultra-masculine fraternity where is brother is an active member. Brad is brutally assaulted on his way home, but what he doesn’t know is the hell that is to be paid during his pledge-ship.

Nick Jonas (center) and his fraternity brothers cheer on the Hell Week festivities (photo courtesy of Paramount)

Nick Jonas (center) and his fraternity brothers cheer on the Hell Week festivities. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Director-screenwriter Andrew Neel has a firm grasp on his vision, uncovering many truths into the hedonistic life of a college student. If you’re not careful it’s easy to get swept away in all the fun, which can easily turn to torture. While the film has several brutal sequences of guys being repeatedly slapped in the face, being locked in dog cages and a blind-folded guy being forced to grab a banana from a toilet. I’m sure you can make an accurate assumption as to what he thought he was fishing after.

Yet, GOAT isn’t about watching its characters writhe in the misery of “Hell Week.” It’s slyly a nice meditation of sibling rivalry and being caught up in an ideology that can turn from dangerous to criminal rather quickly. Rising star Schnetzer (PRIDE, SNOWDEN) shows that he’s got much more acting range to tap into hopefully for years to come; the guy has skills. At the risk of being severely embarrassed pop-star, Jonas hangs with the rest of the cast and carries his good looks into a confidence you see time and time again in young college males, yet he’s a sympathetic character that elevates his material.

While GOAT isn’t a perfect adaption into fraternity life, it acts as part cautionary tale, part psychological thriller with a droning score that allows the horrors of what’s really going on behind the doors of those mansions leaves us with plenty to ponder.

GOAT opens in limited release on Friday.