Shithouse: Boy gets girl, boy loses girl because he is toxic
After a bad experience at a frat party, homesick freshman Alex (Cooper Raiff) spends the night with his RA, Maggie (Dylan Gelula), and the two form an intimate connection through a drunken adventure to bury her pet turtle. But is the connection built to last?
Writer, director, and star Cooper Raiff presents a story about how people who crave intimacy and connection respond when they get it. Raiff splits the story in two, with the first half showing us the two connecting over their relationship with their parents, their struggles in college, and more: while the second half explodes as Maggie pulls away and Alex clings too tight.
Maggie and Alex share their worlds in the way that only drunk conversations at 1 a.m. allow. “Does that make you more mad or sad” is only a question you can ask in that situation or therapy.
The structure isn’t anything unseen in romantic comedies. Boy gets girl, boy loses girl because he is toxic. From When Harry Met Sally…, to Say Anything, to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, this structure is everywhere. But this structure allows Raiff to reveal truths about college hookups and those starved for attention. I have never felt more uncomfortable watching a movie than when Alex likes every single one of Maggie’s posts on Instagram.
One of the film’s greatest strengths lies in its long takes. The frame will shift with the focus of the dialogue or the action, not cutting away for more than a minute. Nowhere is this more evident than in Alex and Maggie’s first sex scene. The camera never leaves their faces as they talk and struggle through this interaction. This decision brings us deep into their relationships and forces the viewers to contend with their emotions.
When Maggie and Alex are together, viewers will cringe at the awkward moments and cheer at their heartfelt desires to feel seen. Gelula and Raiff’s performances are so raw it sometimes feels like the filmmakers just put a camera in a college dorm as students stumble through their relationships.
Finding someone you connect to is one of the hardest things to do in this world, and presenting that desire convincingly might be just as difficult. Shithouse is sometimes rough around the edges and hard to watch, but isn’t love sometimes?