It virtually appears a disgrace to make use of a title as provocative as “S#!%home” — spelled out in its naughty entirety onscreen — on the charmingly handmade school romantic comedy hitting on-demand companies this week. The film gained the grand jury prize at this yr’s SXSW competition, and it marks the arrival of an earnest expertise in writer-director-star Cooper Raiff. It’s additionally the uncommon youth film to dispense with cynicism and put on its coronary heart on its sleeve.
Raiff performs Alex, a gangly, delicate school freshman who’s not having a straightforward time of it. His roommate (Logan Miller) is an alcoholic boor, and the one “particular person” who’ll discuss to him is a childhood stuffed toy (in subtitles). His cellphone calls dwelling to his mom (Amy Landecker of “Clear,” taking part in good for a change) are an train in combating again tears. The film is refreshingly sincere concerning the stresses and melancholy that may include being younger, male, and unmoored.
The title refers to an off-campus celebration home the place Alex, dragged by roommate Sam, encounters Maggie (Dylan Gelula), a sophomore and RA in his dorm. Awkwardness and sort-of intercourse ensue, however so does an extended evening of strolling, speaking, and emotional opening up. Naturally, Maggie desires nothing to do with him the next day.
With its hapless hero set on profitable the woman, “S#!%home” has among the DNA of traditional rom-coms — however solely somewhat. Raiff’s allegiances appear nearer to off-Hollywood stalwarts like Richard Linklater, whose “Earlier than Dawn” trilogy is an apparent affect. Not like that movie’s Jesse and Celine, Alex and Maggie are tongue-tied and cautious, revealing themselves in hesitant steps. If “Dawn” was a quintessential Era X film in its chatty self-absorption, “S#!%home” is Gen Z all the best way, with characters who’re way more comfy with their digital selves than in their very own skins or subsequent to another person’s.
Raiff is a sympathetic and interesting lead, and Gelula has spiked the punch bowl of films like “Help the Ladies” and “Her Scent” — she lets us see how the harm in Maggie has given her wit whereas hardening her pores and skin. She and Alex make an fascinating couple partially as a result of she’s more durable than he’s and in a manner that he and we come to see as a legal responsibility. However “S#!%home” additionally has a beguiling religion in individuals — together with that jerk of a roommate — and even the smallest roles are granted sparks of individuality. Olivia Welch, the actress taking part in the hero’s youthful sister, has only some scenes, however she turns a bit the place she doesn’t cry into some of the transferring moments within the movie.
On the very finish, Raiff takes a leap into his characters’ close to futures that doesn’t fairly pan out: It resolves the drama however relatively too neatly and with a contact of schmaltz that has been studiously prevented up till then. It doesn’t spoil issues a lot as point out that this filmmaker remains to be determining the place he matches on the spectrum from SXSW to Hollywood studio. Optimistically, he’ll keep on the s#!%home finish of issues some time longer.
Written and directed by Cooper Raiff. Starring Raiff, Dylan Gelula, Amy Landecker, Logan Miller. Out there on demand. 102 minutes. R (language all through, sexual content material, drug/alcohol use).