You know that feeling when you’re dragged along to a party you aren’t really in the mood for, and then when you get there everyone’s already drunk and rowdy? When you can’t get involved, no matter how much you want to, or how hard you try? Watching Project X encapsulates that feeling.
A boy turns 17 and has a crazy party. That’s the film’s plot, if it can be described as such, and there are no characters in it. But that in itself isn’t necessarily criticism, just an observation. Music video director Nima Nourizadeh has attempted to stage the most epic party imaginable, and in a very basic way he satisfies that claim. Todd Phillips (The Hangover) is on board here as producer, meaning you can guess the general tone.
We’re introduced to the film’s three protagonists as they say goodbye to Thomas’ (Thomas Mann) parents, who are leaving him in charge of the house. It’s his birthday, and his obnoxious friend Costa (Oliver Cooper) and more likable sidekick J.B (Jonathan Daniel Brown) are desperate to make it a night to remember. We’re also introduced to the film’s framing mechanism, which is that all footage is captured on handy cams and various mobile devices. Most of the context for this comes in the form of Dax, an almost entirely off-screen cameraman, but even early on there are holes in the logic of this device. Later, at the party, phone footage and the like is mixed in to create a montage effect.
Any potential the film had in its early stages for Superbad-like charm is ignored altogether. Costa’s insufferable gags about “getting pussy” and his crass, mock-gangster trash talk wear thin almost immediately, and given that he’s clearly intended as the film’s most hilarious character, it’s damaging how little he does that’s actually funny. He makes the other two positively likable by comparison, even though they possess equally little depth.
But the film’s star is really the party, not the people in it, so let’s deal with that. This is not a long film, but about two thirds of it are spent in and around Thomas’ party, which of course escalates beyond all reckoning, and things get progressively more and more out of control. In a way, Nourizadeh and his crew have created a believable party atmosphere in the film, regardless of the more fantastical elements, and every now and again the up-and-down mechanics of partying are captured in fleeting moments of quality. But that can’t disguise the fact that the vast majority of the film is shot like a particularly tiresome music video, one which would likely induce sleep were it not so loud. Countless times the music stops for a brief moment to allow a spattering of dialogue, before dropping again into heavy basslines and another montage of people dancing and falling over. And whenever we start to tire of the dancing and drinking, Nourizadeh has a woman take her bra off, or throws in some downright leery up-skirt shots. Now, it’s not being prudish to take issue with these elements, because the film is using them simply to alleviate the monotony of its one, groaning set piece. In a film with no story and no characters, it’s left to the escapades of this unlikable mob to entertain us, and they routinely flatter to deceive.
It gets one or two laughs, mainly provided by two extremely young security guards ‘hired’ to protect the property, and there are a couple of good sequences, but this house party quickly gets to the stage where you’re siding with the angry neighbours wanting to shut the thing down. By the time a ludicrous plot contrivance shows up wielding a flamethrower, you’ll be glad of Project X’s mercifully short runtime.
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