Sunday, September 7, 2014

TIFF 14 Film Review - The Riot Club

Beyond the 1% is the top peerage class; among those are the expected future "Empire" leaders that attend schools such as Westminster and Eden many of whom go on to Oxford University from which 10 students each year make up The Riot Club. A spot where wealth and blood relations meet to produce those that will lead and influence the world in the next generation. But for know as Director Lone Scherfig points out in the film they are more conceded with consuming too much alcohol, behaving like petulant children bend on smashing everything in site and looking down on everyone they see as not in their class.

Screenwriter Laura Wade adapted the material from her play Posh loosely based on the Bullingdon Club at Oxford especially the 1987 version that included current British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor and 2012 summer Olympic host Boris Johnston. Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne was in the 1992 version of the group.

Two freshmen students are the centre of the production. Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) the younger brother of a past legendary Riot Club president and Miles Richards (Max Irons) who is more easygoing and carefree are invited to join the circle. Miles has taken up with Lauren (Holliday Grainger) who is State school educated and falls in to the "Girls for now" category as opposed to "Girls for later" vintage in the eyes of the group.

The key event after the obligatory kidnap and hazing of the two new recruits is the first main dinner of the year. A no wholes barred event where the troop aim to outdo the versions of the club that came before them ending with a legendary story to tell and the majority of Wade's stage play. The 10 are suited up in tuxes and tails then head out far away from London as they are apparently banned from holding the dinner anywhere closer.  The centrepiece of the dinner being a 10 -bird roast or 9 birds within the outer one signifying each member.  The fictionalized inspiration for the group is a Lord Ryot a leading scholar at Oxford who indulged in women and drink to excess coming to his end at the hand of a betrayed teacher. The first dinner was held in his honour beginning a tradition at the school leading to this group. The picture of the original dinner holds a prominent place amongst current and former members.  Tom Hollander drops in as Jeremy Alistair's Uncle high up in British Politics to play closer for his nephew's recruitment spinning a yarn from his day at the recruitment dinner that ended with the group waking up on a train to Vienna.

Scherfig keeps the action moving thought the pace presenting the group as they are neither glamorizing nor outwardly judging their behaviour.  She handles the source material from Laura Wade's play with aplomb balancing modern day morality with the expectation of the groups birthright that has obviously tough them that they will never be told know or not get what they want. The story is sprinkled with instances that that does not occur.

The acting is serviceable but not remarkable.  The pub owner makes a key comment as he admits that he cannot tell one from the other. They are a mixture of sharp clothes, better sunglasses, easy smiles and bow ties from which none of the main players really stand out.

The Riot club is an entertaining romp that is basically boys being boys to the 10th power. It will hold the audiences interest Scherfig handles that material well but in the end its no more than a bunch of tantruming pre-schoolers smashing their toys in an attempt to shout look at me.

*** Out of 4.

The Riot Club | Lone Scherfig | U.K. | 2014 | 107 Minutes.

Tags: Secret Societies, Oxford university Clubs,  Oxford University, boarding schools, Eaton, Westminster,

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