Saturday, October 24, 2020

Shithouse: Movie Review

A true-to-life college experience with heart and vulnerability.

Cooper Raiff is a first-time filmmaker with Shithouse. It’s a small story, but one that is told with a lot of heart and a knack at hitting the awkward truths of college life. Alex (Cooper Raiff) is struggling. In general, struggling with everything about college. He’s not going to classes, failing when he does, he has a roommate who is actively awful to him and he has no friends. His only companionship is his mother and a stuffed animal.   2020

Directed by: Cooper Raiff

Screenplay by: Cooper Raiff

Starring: Cooper Raiff, Dylan Gelula, Logan Miller and Amy Landecker

The film opens with Alex talking to his stuffed animal, and it talks back to him via subtitles. That dialogue is great. It reminded me of the talking dog in Beginners, but added an extra layer to Alex’s depression that this isn’t even a real dog. Alex turns to his roommate wanting to find out if any parties are happening, just something to change his routine, anything to feel less alone. Sam (Logan Miller) reluctantly agrees to take him to a party at Shithouse. I would have given anything for the film to take on a different title. This is not a frat comedy, and very little of the action takes place at Shithouse.

At Shithouse, Alex meets a girl. She shares his cynicism and lack of interest in partying. Maggie (Dylan Gelula) had a pet turtle that died that day and was looking for anything to take her mind off it. She was looking for sex. Quality sex can be difficult to find with a bunch of drunk college boys, so she’ll take what she can get.

The representation of college here is incredibly accurate. This movie takes place 15 years after I graduated, but so much of it just pierced through. I was more studious and less of a partier, but it still seemed to echo my experiences.

What follows a very awkward attempt at sex between Maggie and Alex, is a night of them talking, connecting, finding solace in another human being, and maybe, just maybe, transforming their college experience. The dialogue is good enough to keep the viewer interested, but the “oh, this is just a finding your soulmate movie” realization really brought it down for me.

Luckily, there is more to Shithouse. Everything that happens the next day is funnier and more heartbreaking – at the same time. And there is a really sweet evolution to Miller’s Sam which shows the promise of Raiff’s writing and directing efforts.

The heart of the movie is Alex. He is sweet and sensitive and deserves better than the shit life is handing to him. I related to him, my heart broke for him, but I still laughed at his ill-advised attempts to reconnect with Maggie. I adore Cooper Raiff’s screen presence and the vulnerability he has shown here. If this is autobiographical at all, he just laid his soul bare and one hopes that it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.