Written by Laura Wade / Directed by Lone Scherfig / Starring Sam Clafin, Max Irons and Douglas Booth
Miles Richards: Going to Oxford is like going to a hundred parties at once, and I want to go to all of them.
The first ten minutes of THE RIOT CLUB are complete poppycock. I don’t usually use that word but it applies here. Some pompous, determined looking, older gentleman in a bob-wig marches toward the camera and we soon learn he is chasing after Lord Riot, the Barney Stinson of like hundreds of years ago, whom he finds shagging his wife. At a dinner of the supposed brightest and best men at Oxford University shortly thereafter, it is announced that the Lord Riot has died and to honour him, the men at this table vow to keep his rebellious spirit alive by forming The Riot Club in his name. It’s going to be legendary (which they actually say a few times). Well, at least by their confused and outdated standards anyway.
What follows this theatrical opening is a whole other kind of poppycock. I might even call it rubbish. In fact, I think I will call it that. Flash forward to now and the Riot Club lives on, sort of. It is now this tiny group of cardigan wearing wet blanket boys who seem more like the school rejects than the coolest guys around. There isn’t anything riotous about them in the least. At one point, they squabble with a pub waitress (Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay, completely wasting her time) over how one of the birds in their 10-bird feast is missing, like it’s the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. This is what we riot over now? And seriously, this indulgent bird massacre mishap is supposed to represent the decline of the upper class? Let alone how painfully obvious this all is, it is extremely difficult to imagine anyone wanting to be a part of this club at all. Then you see how they initiate people and it makes even less sense. And if you don’t want to have anything to do with a club like this, you most certainly won’t want to watch these losers hang out with each other either.
I think if I went to Oxford, I would find THE RIOT CLUB quite embarrassing. There is a constant debate throughout the film over whether these self-important, insufferable pricks should have to apologize for who they are and what they should be entitled to, when the answer is quite obviously, yes. It becomes impossible to take any commentary the film tries to make about social injustice seriously even though director and disappointment, Lone Scherfig (AN EDUCATION, which I loved) begs us over and over again to do so. So we are then expected to somehow root for these boys to find their inner riot club spirit? So they can somehow get over being complete weenies and transform themselves into the obnoxious, superior windbags their great, great, great grandfathers were, like that’s an actual accomplishment. And we’re supposed to feel bad that the Riot Club can’t be the rebel rousers they once were because the opinion of the poor has to be considered now? It’s just all so offensive and so poorly told to boot, one that left me angry and annoyed. These guys are just the worst so I guess it only stands to reason that a movie about them would be too.