Goat: Andrew Neel’s Powerful Chronicle of Frat Life

Directed by Andrew Neel from a script by David Gordon Green, Mike Roberts and Mr. Neel, Goat is a genre film—college picture—with an intriguing twist, or rather several twists.


Based on the acclaimed memoir by Brad Land, Goat offers a searing portrayal of brotherhood, masculinity, and violence among youngsters at a crucial phase of their lives, their formative years as men.

It’s a tough and disturbing film to watch, but that’s the point, and I will not be surprised if it stirs interesting discussions and debates among students, educators, and administrators.

Ben Schnetzer plays Brad Land, a 19 year old reeling from a terrifying assault over the summer. Like other guys his age, he attends college, hoping and determined to get his life back to “normal’ (though he has no clear idea of what exactly normal means).  

It should be an easier process, as his brother Brett (Nick Jonas) is already established on campus and with a fraternity.  The group is seductive for a youngster like Ben, promising reliable companionship, physical protection, personal popularity, and strong and reliable friendships.

Brad is desperate to be a member, to belong, to be gradually accepted by the other members as one of their own.  However, as he sets out to join the fraternity, Brett has some reservations, which creates tension between the siblings, threatening to divide them.

Brad is contrasted with his gentler roommate, Will (Danny Flaherty), though neither character comes across as articulate or rational—perhaps by design.


The process of assimilations involves some common but dubious rituals, rites of passage as anthropologies have labeled them. “If the fraternity goes, everything goes with it,” a character observes at one point, making explicit the clan’s ideology, which justifies sadism.

The pledging ritual quickly escalates moves into “hell week,” a rite meant to usher these unproven (and innocent) boys into genuine manhood.  As expected and dreaded, the series of torturous and humiliating events gets increasingly more dangerous and violence, and the filmmakers don’t shy away from depicting them in graphic minute detail. (The woman sitting next to me covered her eyes a number of times during the press screening).


The bold and ferocious tale that ensues dissects the whole notions of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘masculinity, putting to tests both boys and their rapidly shifting relationship.

Andrew Neel, who has previously directed King Kelly and Darkon, shows more confident and assured approach here, shooting in hand-held camera, thus creating a quasi-documentary style. 

The acting of the two leads are serious, even earnest, but creditable, though it is Schnetzler who gives the more compelling performance due to the fact that he occupies the center of the narrative and most of the events are seen from his point-of-view.


James Franco, credited as one of the producers, appears in a strange cameo as a bra, but it’s not particularly funny and the caricature is uncertain in its meaning.  But this is a minor role—and minor complaint.

The film is produced by Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa with Rabbit Bandini’s James Franco and Vince Jolivette.

Here is a film that deserves it R rating, for depicting disturbing behavior involving hazing, strong sexual content and nudity, pervasive language, violence, alcohol abuse and some drug use.

Running time: 96 Minutes