Set wrong a typically raucous fraternity astatine a fictional college, Ethan Berger’s “The Line” foretells wherever it’s headed early connected erstwhile nan schoolhouse administrator warns of repercussions if a hazing is performed. Consider Chekhov’s weapon cocked from that point: Audiences tin conjecture what awaits, though nan lead-up to nan inevitable is lively and compelling, while besides affording a slew of rising actors a chance to show their talent.
Written by Berger and Alex Russek, “The Line” focuses connected Tom (Alex Wolff), a sophomore striving to flooded his impoverished inheritance who believes that belonging to a fraternity is simply a chance for opportunities and connections. Things look promising erstwhile he’s picked by nan fraternity’s president, Todd (Lewis Pullman), arsenic a imaginable successor. He starts seeing an charismatic chap student (Halle Bailey). But problem starts erstwhile a caller pledge, Gettys (Austin Abrams), decides to make an force of Tom’s champion friend, Mitch (Bo Mitchell). Since Gettys is 1 of Todd’s favorites, Tom finds himself caught successful nan middle.
When nan frats stitchery together, they are perpetually trash-talking each other, pinch casual misogyny and homophobia lacerating practically each put-down. These scenes aren’t precisely nosy to watch but are appropriately incisive, arsenic nan young men execute for 1 another: performing masculinity, performing coolness, performing disdain of anyone who’s not portion of their team. There’s ever large euphony successful nan background, making what they opportunity difficult to decipher — not that it matters, since nan discourse is clear. Their threats person a veneer of joke astir them, though each this bottled power suggests a disturbing capacity for violence.
Wolff, who’s had showcase supporting roles successful “Hereditary” and “Pig,” has nan spotlight to himself this time. The character gives a focused, attention-grabbing performance, moving from nan outside-in, pinch an affected long-voweled sound — called “Forrest Gump” by his mother, played by Cheri Oteri — and measured, studied airs and walk. As Tom’s world crumbles, Wolff adapts his performance, which becomes much raw, adding sensitivity and disillusionment. That sound is besides sported by Pullman, and erstwhile they talk to each other, Tom’s inspiration and adulation go apparent. Also clear are these 2 characters’ utter inexperience and misunderstanding of nan world. They are conscionable posturing, arsenic nan actors convey nan utter fearfulness they consciousness beneath that faux-authoritative surface.
Making for a fitting antagonist is Abrams, who brings a sloppy insouciance to his character. Every statement is dropped pinch assured arrogance. Later, erstwhile he goads his enemies by making each kinds of suggestive intersexual gestures arsenic he dances to The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” astatine a party, nan assemblage knows this can’t extremity well. In a cameo domiciled arsenic an influential and powerful parent, John Malkovich gives his little scenes sinister foreboding, accentuating nan film’s ominous atmosphere.
Bailey (now nan film’s biggest star, owing to her starring domiciled successful “The Little Mermaid”) has only a fewer scenes arsenic nan requisite emotion interest. It’s a pleasant diversion to spot Tom much relaxed arsenic he tentatively falls successful love, and Bailey’s understated but charismatic capacity shows why he would beryllium pinch this peculiar woman. While nan characteristic ought to service arsenic a counterpoint to nan toxic fraternity scene, providing Tom pinch a different worldview, nan narration is not afloat explored and ends up being muted and trivial to nan plot.
Working pinch editor Ted Feldman, Berger finds a kinetic rhythm. Instead of trying to opportunity excessively much, arsenic immoderate first-timers do, nan head tells a circumstantial communicative pinch a knowing authentic consciousness for nan situation successful which it’s group — though his targets stay evident and easy: Rich powerful group are supra nan law, young men are imprisoned by macho traditions they ne'er analyse and nan circle will spell on. While “The Line” doesn’t connection an particularly unsocial return connected this milieu, it plays good and acts arsenic a coagulated showcase for its young cast.