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  Freshman Year Having A Shit Time
Year: 2020
Director: Cooper Raiff
Stars: Cooper Raiff, Dylan Gelula, Amy Landecker, Logan Miller, Olivia Scott Welch, Abby Quinn, Joy Sunday, Ashley Padilla, Tre Hall, Alina Patra, Chinedu Unaka, Nick Saso, Wyatt Whipple, Juan Wood, Andrew Hales, Mallory Low, Adan Rossa, Natalie Rousseau
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Alex Malmquist (Cooper Raiff) has just started his first year at college and as his favourite cuddly toy observes to him, maybe he should already think about leaving. He can barely bring himself to make an effort with his fellow students, simply does not have the confidence, and though he has a roommate, Sam (Logan Miller), they are not really connecting. At all. Classes are hopeless, he cannot engage, and with no friends the only thing he has to look forward to for any companionship is his regular phone calls home to his mother and sister, though he is so homesick that these serve to make his isolation even worse. What he would truly love right now is a hug from his mother, and what he gets is indifference from all those around him here...

Although there are plenty of movies telling you what a great time you could have at college, aside from horror movies there are not many showing how it can be very tough, and budding auteur Cooper Raiff had opted to pick up that particular ball and run with it, offering up a comedy drama of social awkwardness designed to strike a chord in anyone who ever felt the growing up experience to be a bit much. Alex is pitched in at the deep end, and his obvious pain might have made you think maybe he needed some kind of counsellor to give him the support he needed, or at least give him some more manageable options, yet that does not appear to be a factor in this college, indeed we barely see an authority figure who Alex could have turned to.

Mind you, if he had the story would have gone in a different direction, as what this tentatively moved towards was a coming of age romance when Alex decides he has nothing to lose and attends a party at a college dorm known as Shithouse, which was the original title of this picture. You can see why they changed it, but also why Raiff might have shot himself in the foot with that title: fair enough, it was aimed at generating attention for a tiny budget indie, but not everyone was going to be attracted by that name, indeed many would be put off, hence the change. Then the title it was changed to was about as nondescript as you could get - they might as well have called it College Movie - which would have the project disappear into the lower echelons of the streaming services to be discovered only by the hardiest of scrollers seeking something out of the ordinary for entertainment.

Though make no mistake, the roots of this were in mumblecore, and many would find it difficult to get on with such a pathetic lead character, who may not go around apologising all the time, but may as well do given his demeanour. However, at that party, where predictably Alex is more of a wallflower than the life and soul, he does meet Maggie (Dylan Gelula) who he clicks with, though it takes half the night to get into the position where they are actually chatting and sharing their deepest feelings. Mind you, it takes about five minutes for them to have sex, so maybe Alex is not as hopeless as he seems - oh, wait, he is, as we discover the next day when Maggie considers their hook up a one night stand and he plays the needy card, not realising that not every woman wants to move that fast, or indeed at all, just because you had a fun natter with her that you believed was a bonding session and she is reluctant to take further. But while she could have handled this better, we are asked to wonder, will they get together after all? Suggesting Raiff was a little confused in the message he was trying to put across, but if you could forgive youthful uncertainty in the telling, then this was an accomplished effort on its own terms. Music by Jack Kraus.

[Freshman Year was released digitally on Friday 1st October 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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