Shithouse. The title alone tells you largely all you need to know about the headspace of this romantic dramedy. It’s an adorkably relatable story about college freshman Alex (cutie Cooper Raiff, who also writes and directs) and his struggles with crushing homesickness. His depression hangs heavy, but he tries to distract himself by attending a rollicking party at a legendary frat house dubbed Shithouse. Alex forms a deep connection very quickly with sarcastic Maggie (Dylan Gelula), his sophomore RA—“I like having something heavy in my hands to hold during a party,” she quips in one scene while nursing a giant bottle. Maggie has recently suffered a terrible loss, and the two find solace in each other’s company. It’s a cute film with a bubbly soundtrack, if a little too simplistic overall.
The dialogue is 100% believable, and it made me curious if any of this was unscripted. The flow and language of the conversations feels entirely natural and organic. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will relate to Alex’s journey. An emotional phone breakdown near the ending hits hard and represents the film’s emotional peak. No level of cringe goes higher than that of Alex’s obnoxious roommate Sam (Logan Miller). Sam spends most of the runtime being either outrageously drunk or barfing into a trashcan. Sam shits himself, and he drinks a bottle of vodka thinking it’s water. His personality definitely got on my nerves at times. It is clear Alex’s patience far exceeds my own.
In the end, any romance hinges on a chemistry between the love interests. I didn’t always buy the vibe between Alex and Maggie. There’s an awkwardness that was hard to watch at times. When they click though, the riffing of energies evolves into something brilliant. My favorite conversation between the duo involves an extensive recall of 13 Going on 30—you don’t get to turn back into a teenager; you have to just be an adult. That is an effective message to present audiences with about growing up and finally leaving the nest. There are no narrative hoops, just tender exploration of depression and companionship.
Shithouse comes to DVD and Blu-ray on May 18th.