A young mugging victim finds his masculinity further tested by a fraternity rush process in Goat, a narrowly focused but unsettling indictment of campus culture. Thousands of pledges will relate to the gross hazing inflicted upon Brad (Ben Schnetzer), whose torture extends to an unspeakably vulgar prank involving the movie’s titular mammal. Goat, “based on actual events” from Brad Land’s memoir, depicts the toxic machismo that dominates university Greek life.
Director Andrew Neel treats these appalling rituals with an unyielding self-seriousness that brands the Phi Sigma Mu brothers as dangerously juvenile. “They just do this to weed out the weak ones,” assures Brett (pop star Nick Jonas), Brad’s older brother, but the homogeneous sea of skinny white torsos aggressively cheering together during the movie’s eerie slow-motion opening shot tells a different story. It’s unnatural selection: like-minded young men given free reign to develop their own unsavory traditions outside of the gaze of others.
James Franco makes a brief, charged-up appearance as Mitch, an alum of the fraternity, who laments that his wife and baby keep him away from booze. Schnetzer delivers a quietly devastating performance in the lead role, averting his eyes while stubbornly holding onto his resolve to prove his toughness. Though Brad is put through hell, it’s often his sibling whose guilt is the most apparent; Jonas illustrates that internal conflict commendably. The duo’s natural charisma lends Goat its bro authenticity.
BY: ZACH SHEVICH