At the Movies Blog

Alex finds out college life isn’t all a big party.

First-time writer, director, and star Cooper Raiff is in his early 20s, and he’s given us a rather impressive low-budget picture. He obviously has lots of potential and I’ll be looking forward to what he does in the future. I was pleasantly surprised that, for a movie that felt like a Before Sunrise for the emo set, I was never bored. And neither was my wife. This is worth checking out. There’s also a problem with Raiff casting himself in the lead. He’s just too good looking and smart to seem believable as a guy who is so homesick and can’t make friends in his first year of college, that he has crying jags after phone calls to his mom and sister.

Alex (Raiff) starts the movie having a conversation with his stuffed animal/dog (this gimmick has been done; in amazing fashion in the brilliant Ewan McGregor/Mike Mills movie Beginners). When he tries to talk to his roommate (Logan Miller who also played the jerk splendidly in Love, Simon a few years ago), he wonders why he even bothers. That guy doesn’t seem the least bit interested in what he has to say. He’s only interested in partying. So when Alex inquires about future parties he could possibly attend with him, he’s told about one at the “sh!%house.” When they go, Alex meets a few women. And while he’s a tad awkward, we realize there’s hope for him.

When he talks with Maggie (Dylan Gelula of Support the Girls, who reminds me of Gaby Hoffmann), things are going well. That is, until her friends talk about the guy she wants to hook up with at the party. That scene of their hook-up is rather funny. Later, these two end up meeting back at the dorm (she’s the resident advisor). Their hook-up is more…realistic and heartwarming. It leads to their going out for a walk to bury her pet turtle that died, and join a late night softball game.

I thought this movie was just going to be college guys partying their brains out, but it was nice that while it had that, the characters were interesting, realistic, and seemed to care about each other. It reminded me of how in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the main character is nerdy, but instead of his friends making fun of him, they’re trying to help him meet women. That’s how the partying roommate acts when Alex tries to engage in conversations with his roommate, who sometimes soils himself, or forgets entire events. In both instances, these other characters care enough to try and be wingmen and aren’t just concerned about themselves. 

It’s also nice that when there are weird characters at various parties, they’re amusing. One guy going on about the party having a “plethora of pu**y,” or at a party the basketball team is having, the guy working the front door. He’s calm, cool, and collected…until he’s not. This all reminds me of the type of characters Judd Apatow creates (although his last movie The King of Staten Island was awful).

There were probably more touching scenes than humorous ones, but to be sure, this movie delivers the laughs. A scene with an Uber driver interrupting the couple’s debate to say he’s allergic to gluten as they discussed their peanut allergies — brilliant!

There’s a fun debate about 13 Going on 30, and girls giving their friend a hard time for saying she’s “on a roll” while she’s working on her paper in the library.

Unfortunately, there are a few scenes with poor writing. One of those being the eulogy for the turtle, which should have been funny and touching, and showing us why this would make the girl like him. Or, a better backstory that would explain her bizarre behavior with men. It bordered on her having been sexually molested and becoming a nympho. That character should have been fleshed out (no pun intended) a bit better.

The ending, which jumps years ahead, didn’t seem the least bit believable for what we knew about these characters.

But I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying the time they spend with these characters.

You could have seen this at the San Diego International Film Festival on Thursday, but since you missed it there, find it on digital and cable VOD starting today.

3 stars out of 5.

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