Every teenager wants the opportunity to be the coolest kid in the school. The dream that one day everybody will be chanting your name is sometimes what keeps students going for what can be the worst four years of their lives. It’s true, though, when people say that all it takes is one amazing night to change everything you know about being popular, and what everyone else knows about you. Project X is that night. Project X is that dream come true. Project X is that party.
As I’ve mentioned in reviews for films like Chronicle, found footage has been plaguing cinemas for the past few years. I’m actually quite a big fan of found footage, but I guess I’m the only one. Regardless, it puts the asses in the seats and brings in the dough. Found footage works, in my opinion, because it brings the viewer closer to the characters. It helps them feel like they’re actually there. For some films like the Paranormal Activity and REC series, found footage really works. In fact, 2012 marks the first year that found footage films haven’t been dominated by horror flicks. The genre is expanding rapidly, and the results are actually quite astonishing.
Project X follows three teenagers who throw the biggest high school party of all time. Thomas Mann, Costa, and JB (who all use their real names), plan a “little get-together” for Thomas’ birthday that soon turns into anarchy with 1500+ guests. There is some footage of before the party with all the planning, as well as after the party, AKA, the cleanup. Most of Project X is just people partying. Things like plot and character development take a backseat to things like booze and boobs.
Advance screenings have described Project X as “the best party movie ever” and “Superbad on crack”. These claims are all 100% correct. If you’re willing to accept the silliness, the cliches, and the sometimes very raunchy humor, Project X is actually quite enjoyable. Many critics have deemed the film misogynist and mean-spirited. One critic called the characters, and I quote, “unrepentant, nihilistic, vile, venal, animalistic, avaricious, charmless, entitled, sub-Kardashian, stunningly irresponsible brats.”
All I have to say is, congratulations, sir, you just described a teenager. I related quite a bit to the characters, their plight, and their search for fame. In fact, that’s what makes Project X worth watching. While the dialogue is nowhere near genius, it’s honest. The movie is honest. It knows teenagers just as well as teenagers know teenagers.
Granted, the constant insanity can get a little tiring until something new happens, but there’s no doubt that Project X is chaos cinema at its finest. The direction by music video director Nima Nourizadeh definitely shows, as there are some sequences throughout the film that actually play out like music videos, but it’s impossible to not marvel at the sometimes visionary camerawork that makes this party seem so damn enticing.
Much like Chronicle, the main cameraman, Dax, isn’t the only one shooting the footage. In fact, producer Todd Phillips equipped certain members of the cast with recording devices like iPhones and camcorders so that him and Nourizadeh could go through all of it later and pick out snippets to put in the film, truly making Project X a found footage film.
Project X is an experimental film in its heart. Utilizing guerrilla film making as its medium for storytelling, the often uncontrollable environment finds a delicate balance between film and documentary, giving the impression that the events in the film are actually happening. But at the end of the day, despite all the “misogyny” that is contained within the film, Project X has a big heart, and makes a point to let us know that even though on the exterior, characters like Costa are douches and asses, they’re just kids who love their best friends just as much as anyone. And in the final shot, when Thomas looks at Dax and signals for him to cut the footage, we know, just as much as he does, that we’ve reached the end of a journey. No matter what the future brings, Thomas had that one night. And it was a night that he’ll never forget.