Project X is Rated R for “crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem – all involving teens.” And that’s not the half of it. Produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), Project X is a found footage music video for high school debauchery. It portrays an unattainable, highly illegal and completely insane portrait of what we’ve all only dreamt high school could be. As a film, it’s almost an avant-garde exercise by a horny male teenager. Un Chien Andalou by a drunken aspiring frat boy. And that glorification of excess makes it potentially dangerous.

Still, this story of three high school losers who throw the most epic high school party in history is made with a palpable energy that straddles the line between infectious and euphoric. Or painful and annoying, depending on you look at it. This is American Pie, Superbad or Sixteen Candles not for the MTV generation, but for their kids. If you are too far removed from that demographic, you’ll likely find much of the film morally reprehensible and hard to watch. But that visceral reaction is what makes it so damn fun.

Contrary to popular belief, Todd Phillips didn’t direct Project X. That duty went to first-time director Nima Nourizadeh from a script by Michael Bacall and Matt Drake. And while it is technically a “found footage” movie – most of the story is told through the camera of one character – the film regularly deviates off that to showcase what can be described as nothing short of madness. Everything described in the rating and more. The bulk of the movie is just partying for the sake of partying with a music video feel that’s meant to be some sort of fan edit, mixing the main camera with flip cams and cell phone footage from other attendees.

Yes there’s a story too. A very, very basic, familiar story of losers trying to be cool. It works as a through-line but ends up pretty predictable and cliched. Because of that, as well as the film’s complete disregard of a larger audience, Project X is going to be highly polarizing. Seeing it and thinking it’s nothing but a gross, obscene exploitation of teen culture is a completely valid argument. I, however, fall on the side of it’s simply a blast. The film is flawed, frightening but entertaining in a way that few films can achieve.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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