S#!%house (2020)

"Yeah, I'm just not feeling well and it's super frustrating""Yeah, I'm just not feeling well and it's super frustrating"

“Yeah, I’m just not feeling well and it’s super frustrating”

Shithouse (bowdlerized as S#!%house) – the name alone describes the year 2020 in one word. It can also describe the state that Hollywood is in due to the global pandemic that the world is struggling to climb out of. This multi layered title has many meanings that can be applied to literally anything and in this case its college and the experience a person can have thousands of miles away from their comfort zone. It’s either the best four years of your life or the worst experience that should never be talked again. 

Covid-19 has ruined many plans for the film industry. One event of many that were cancelled included the wildly popular SXSW where this little indie film was set to make its debut. That cancellation is a huge disappointment for up-and-coming filmmakers like Raiff because of the missed opportunity and potential his film would have had in front of a bigger audience. S#!%house could have been a massive hit like last year’s coming of age film Booksmart, which not many people saw but is still one of the best films of last year. Regardless, the film released, and the word of mouth needs to be spread for this film to receive any sort of recognition since the pandemic failed this feature debut. 

Only a fraction of people that go away to college can understand the narrative of the characters that writer / director Cooper Raiff displays on screen.  Alex (Cooper Raiff) is a college freshman who misses his home life back in Texas. He doesn’t have any friends despite putting himself out there by going to parties with his roommate Sam (Logan Miller) who is full on in college mode. Alex because Sam gets wasted is forced to spend the night outside of his dorm and meets Maggie (Dylan Gelula). Maggie invites Alex to hangout (code word for hooking up) and spend the night together.

There is an inspiration of the ‘Before’ trilogy that Cooper applies to his characters. Alex and Maggie start off slow just like Jesse and Celine, but they form this strong bond by their conversation and personalities. Both narratives are eerily similar but due to the nature of the generations there are noticeable differences. Maggie’s first instinct is to hook up – making bold decisions and taking risks. Whereas Alex is looking for something more serious. He’s looking for a connection with someone because he’s having a hard time adjusting to the college lifestyle.

Alex misses home so much that he’s constantly calling his mother (Amy Landecker) and sister Jesse (Olivia Welch) and even brought a stuffed animal with him. Alex is a freshman who can’t escape his feelings of being vulnerable and isolated from his comfort zone. That is what college should be about – breaking out of your shell while giving you opportunities to discover who you really are. Cooper captures the emotion of this broken spirit and anxiety perfectly and gives a real look into someone who is depressed. It works so well since the only way people can view this film is from home, isolated from the movie going experience. 

Theres a sort of beauty in Alex’s panic and fragile state. It’s authentic to the character but also to human nature. Cooper brings a certain charm to his characters that is usually difficult to duplicate in coming of age films.

Raiff treats his characters in a way that makes them too relatable. At any given point we can feel and connect with Alex and Maggie while they embark on their walk in the dead of night in Los Angeles to find the perfect spot to bury her turtle. Every single one of us has felt lonely and out of place and Raiff smartly taps into those strong emotions without us even realizing he’s saying its ok to feel alone and depressed. It’s ok to feel needy and to want love. It’s ok to constantly call home and keep the attachment to your comfort zone but it’s also ok to distance yourself and break away from those chains to discover who you truly are meant to be. 

Alex is one of the bravest characters in that regard. We catch Alex at the moment he realizes he needs to have that self-discovery. It’s the bravest thing anyone can do – putting yourself out there and that’s where I am able to relate to Alex. It’s hard being an introvert and meeting new people in a public place but he does it and his awkward but dorky personality makes him likable enough that he comes off sweet.  

S#!%house just like the ‘Before’ trilogy has that low budget feeling and appeal. But even with the low budget, the film doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes stories of real characters just talking to each other can captivate its target audience. The performances by Dylan and Cooper are fascinating. Dylan brings an air of mystery to her character while showing us glimpses at her characters vulnerable side in a way that is different from Alex. Where Alex is more direct. The film loses a little momentum when the spotlight shifts to Sam and his bad standup comedy set – if the focus remained solely on the characters vulnerability with alcohol than this film would be bulletproof.

S#!%house is a relatable character study. It focuses on loneliness and feelings of doubt but it’s a story about being brave and having the strength to realize a change needs to be made. Even with a miniature misstep in the story, S#!%house is a captivating narrative that anyone and everyone can relate to. The film is presented in a raw and eye-opening manner. There is no telling how much success this film would have seen if the world was not in a global pandemic. If I were to rate S#!%house, I’d rate it a 4.9 out of 5. 

So, tell me guys, have you seen S#!%house and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

S#!%house is written & directed by Cooper Raiff is Rated PG-13 and has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. S#!%house was released on October 16, 2020 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes. S#!%house can be bought or rented on Amazon Prime.

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