Review: College Is Hard, but Less So in This Mopey Talkathon


Alex (Cooper Raiff) is a sensitive freshman having trouble adjusting to college life. His Zac Efron-esque looks belie his insecurity and unpracticed social skills. His best friend is a stuffed animal that “talks” to him in subtitles.

After Alex’s stoner roommate (Logan Miller) drunkenly soils himself, forcing Alex out on a lonely Friday night, he bumps into a resident adviser, Maggie (Dylan Gelula), for the third time that day. She invites him to her room, where an impromptu hookup doesn’t go to plan. Instead, they set out on a quest to bury Maggie’s pet turtle and to talk. Better to mope together than mope alone.

From a summary, the movie — which Raiff wrote and directed, in his feature debut — doesn’t sound especially daring, except maybe to my editors, who have agreed to print its title, “Shithouse.” The word refers to the party venue of Alex and Maggie’s second meet-cute.

Raiff’s talkathon is both more and less than it appears: more in that it takes structural chances (a lengthy, awkward day-after follows Alex and Maggie’s time-stopping evening of outpourings), and it locates a few kernels of truth about the difficulties of adapting to an unfamiliar place.

But its insights rest in generic characters, who are simply too perfect as foils despite their ostensible flaws. Alex grew up in a loving home that he misses. Maggie, a ceaselessly cool child of divorce, is as independent as he is needy. Raiff deserves credit for an unexpectedly elliptical coda, but much of the chatter between the leads has the emo-tedium of dorm room blather.

Rated R. First rule of college: Drink water before passing out. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. Watch in select theaters and available to rent or buy on iTunes, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.



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