Old School is kind of a cross between American Pie, Fight Club and one of my disturbed dreams*. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Sure, it is shallow, has approximately zero character development or plot and has some definite cringe moments but these flaws are actually outshone by genuinely funny and warm scenes. Pretty much the opposite of my recent experience with Ted. The only thing I’ll really complain about is the very poor female characters.
The main premise of Old School is that three guys are all having some kind of mid-life crisis. One of them splits from his girlfriend and moves into a house near the campus of a local university (or college, I don’t understand the American school system!) and the other 2 see this as a way of reliving their youth, having lots of parties and meeting chicks (even though the other 2 are married). Somehow along the way they start up a pseudo fraternity and begin inducting members.
This is where it starts to get very much like Fight Club. The main character Mitch is the unwilling head of the new fraternity and all the members refer to him as The Godfather while his buddy Beanie takes on the Tyler Durden role and organises all the frat inductions and members without telling Mitch what’s going on. They even have a Fight Club style party where everyone fights in a pool full of jelly.
The other way that this film is like Fight Club is a much less savoury one though. Like Fight Club this film is essentially a metaphor for the male psyche or at least a twisted caricature of one. As such, there are very few female characters and those that do have more than a few seconds of screen time (and get to keep their clothes on) are rarely more than one dimensional sketches.
Mitch’s girlfriend, played nicely by Juliette Lewis, is a sex obsessed adulteress whose only redeeming quality (in the eyes of the film makers) is that she is sex obsessed and hey, it is easier to forgive someone for breaking your friend’s heart if it is likely that she’ll sleep with you too right?
Other women in the film include Nicole, an old friend of all three guys who is back in town and hitting on Mitch even though she has a boyfriend. Looks like Mitch has a problem attracting faithful women. Or maybe the writers have a problem accepting that there is such a thing in the world. Anyway, it turns out that her boyfriend is a cheating slimeball so that makes it OK that she has been trying to hook up with Mitch since well before she had any idea about his infidelity. Nicole is played by Ellen Pompeo and having just watched 10 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy with my girlfriend, I may have had difficulty separating Nicole and Meredith. Of course if Nicole was more than a sketch in this film it might have been easier!
The only other notable female character (I’m writing this from memory about a week after watching the film so don’t sue me if I’ve missed some) is Darcie, the teenage daughter of Mitch’s boss. Darcie meets Mitch at a party at the frat house and sleeps with him when he is really drunk. This episode is obviously played for laughs and the awkward situation, told entirely from the man’s perspective, of waking up next to a stranger and not knowing what happened last night and the exponential increases in awkwardness when you find out a. that that person is a child of your boss and b. that they are below the legal age of consent.
The theatrical release of this film doesn’t take this storyline any further but there are some deleted scenes on the DVD which go on for quite a while about statutory rape and how, in the eyes of Beanie at least, it is a perfectly acceptable thing to do and something that every red-blooded male should aspire to. Now I accept that these scenes are unfinished, that’s why they are in the extras not the movie, and the scene could have been intended as ironic. Furthermore several other characters argue against Beanie’s point of view. But the message I got from these sequences and from others that are in the finished film, is that I should feel unusual for not wanting to have sex with girls who are both too drunk and too young to consent to it.
These complaints aside, a lot of the film is actually quite funny. There are some great slapstick moments, especially while inducting the new frat pledges. When the college takes exception to the new fraternity and they are forced to prove their support for “school spirit”, there are some funny sequences where the oddball group of middle aged men and teenage misfits compete against the best the college has to offer in things like debating and gymnastics and do surprisingly well. I would have liked this bit to go on a bit longer and maybe involve a bit of devious cheating or collusion with the opposition against “The Man” in the person of the dean who no one likes anyway.
*Just in case anyone is worried about my dreams, I often dream about being back at University. I’m usually the same age as I currently am and I don’t go to any lectures. I usually have some kind of anxiety about not knowing anything about what I’m supposed to be learning before realising that I have already graduated and don’t need to go through this s*** any more.