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Movie Review: 'S#!%house' Is Almost A Little Too Real

Writing dialogue that sounds like how people actually talk is ridiculously hard. Step back and think about it, and most of what we say in real life is… pretty boring! And it’s not at all elegant. There are a lot of “um”s, and “like”s and “you know”s, lots of half-thoughts, trailing off… A writer trying to do anything with this is either going to end up with something extremely stylized, or something that’s deadly dull to watch.


But there’s a new movie that strikes the right balance between naturalistic and somehow-not-boring about as well as anything I can remember. I actually can’t say the title on the radio, although I can tell you the first word is an expletive starting with the letter S, and the second word is “House.” You can probably take it from there. The title belies the warmth of the film, which is about a college freshman-- played by the movie’s young director, Cooper Raiff—who’s having a very difficult time adjusting to a far-away place where he has no friends. He meets another student at a party, and he and she sort-of hit it off, although he’s clearly looking for someone he can really connect with, and she’s maybe more interested in keeping things casual.


Most of the film succeeds, but the part that really jumped out at me is the first night the two students spend together, just walking and talking. There’s no snappy dialogue, and nothing they say is earth-shattering. They’re exactly as articulate as an average 19-year-old, and they talk about things that are so very important to them, but are, ultimately, not particularly interesting. And yet, it’s astonishingly absorbing.


The way the characters in the film talk and act is, in fact, so real that it sometimes gets to be hard to watch, because it’s so close to the reality many of us experienced. There are scenes of extreme social awkwardness that cause flashbacks to a time when you, too, had no idea what you were doing, and every little thing seemed so consequential. This is a rare kind of film, one that’s quietly humane, and one that understands its characters as the confused, confusing, and very real people they are.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.