Ellis Whitman (The Good Wife’s Graham Phillips) is a young man who lives in the Arizona desert with his new age mother, Wendy (Vera Farmiga), and her string of boyfriends, as well as a sort-of father figure in the form of ‘Goat Man’ (David Duchovny), a man who goes on goat treks and spends most of his life stoned. Although Wendy hates Ellis’ actual father, Frank (Ty Burrell), Ellis has secretly applied for and been accepted to the straight-laced prep school his father attended.
Over the course of his first year at the school, Ellis attempts to get to know his father, becomes subject to his mother’s whims and emotional guilt trips, and is also forced to reconsider who Goat Man is.
Goats desperately wants to be a quirky and sweet indie dramedy, filled with memorable characters and witty ideas. However it’s so busy trying to be quirky that it fails to pull its various ideas and characters together in a way that is anything but annoying. The idea seems to be to show that while adults are flawed, do bad things and can be incredibly selfish, they have positive sides too. However it spends so much time painting pretty much everyone except Ellis as a complete asshole, that when it suggests they aren’t all bad, it’s too little too late. It doesn’t help that when these positive moments come it’s generally through dialogue, so you’ve seen an hour of them being asses, and then a few perhaps empty words are meant to change your idea of them.
Even so, it might have been okay if by the end it felt like Ellis had been on a journey and ended up somewhere different, but he’s pretty much in the same place as he started – it’s just that we’re now aware that everyone he knows is a dick. Even Goat Man, who initially seems like the oasis of reason in a sea of madness, is eventually revealed to be a bit of a twat, although the film gives him a completely free pass on this. Indeed that’s part of the problem. No matter what anyone does, nobody really seems to challenge them on it fully or come to any sort of realisation or resolution about any of the issues raised.
Goats has absolutely no idea why it exists and as a result simply meanders around hoping that a very capable cast can make something out of nothing. At times they do, but the film is so episodic and fuzzy that even they can’t hide the fact there’s no point in what they’re doing, and that no amount of well-played quirkiness can hide the fact their characters are unpleasant assholes.
Overall Verdict: It may have a very good cast, but Goats invests so much in its quirks that it forgets there are two more words in ‘quirky indie dramedy’, which results in a bunch of unpleasant people running around in circles for no apparent reason. That may work for reality TV, but here it’s just tedious.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac