|Posted on December 27, 2014 at 9:15 AM|
Written by Ellie Downs
If someone mentions the recently premiered blockbuster ‘Riot Club’, a girl’s first thought takes the form of the likes of Sam Claflin and Douglas Booth, while a boy’s would wander to the quality of their suits and the prestige of making it into the ultimate ‘lad crew’. Needless to say, the film’s intent was not one of such superficial satisfaction- though Mr Booth certainly did help the viewership figures- but one of a more moral pursuit. The movie itself earned a huge spectrum of reviews, from Camilla Long’s critique of its being “hobbled, numb, dumb and inaccurate”, to Joe Lloyd’s fanciful description of it being a story about “isolated penguins”, which alerts me, personally, to the fact that this debatably parodic film is indeed, all about interpretation.
Those wanting an action-packed plot rife with the inner-life of an Oxfordian, this film probably isn’t for you; in fact, you only get the occasional glimpse of an Oxford study or the dusty inside of an elaborate library, as the director lets the prestige of the name carry your imagination (or rather prejudices). The film follows two freshers at Oxford, both of equal backgrounds, but with different perspectives on how the world works in terms of class. These boys are picked to be in the renowned but secret ‘Riot Club’, who we know to be a group of boisterous well-to-doers who spend their time and earn their title by drinking and partaking in various means of decadence. The climax of the film sees the peak of the group’s intoxication which results in the assault on the landlord of the restaurant hosting them, resulting in the group’s decision to sacrifice one of them to the police in order to protect the rest of their potential, as they are after all, students at one of the greatest universities in the world. The film ends with the dislikable fresher, who led the attack, meeting with the father of one of the other ‘rioters’ offering him the best-money-can-buy lawyer and a career path, as long as he does not grass up the others in his bitterness. Like I said, not the most intricate of plot lines, but certainly one of great character depth.
If watched with an allegorical eye, the film poses a whole range of moral questions against society. Based on Laura Wade’s play, ‘Posh’, the film evidently portrays some similarly satirical elements of the upper class, most memorably Etonian’s and Westminsterian’s barely concealed scorn of the not-quite-posh-enough Harrow. Yet the jovial insults of “He’s the type of man who keeps his cheese in the fridge” are examples, if not hyperbolisms, of a growing issue within developed countries: the issue of class. Extreme in its intent to alert the audience of its moral, ‘Riot Club’ is an exaggerated version of the actual Bullingdon Club of Oxford, where the most brilliant, the most prosperous, and essentially, the richest congregate. The ‘Riot Club’ takes what the public know to be a group of men meeting and drinking to an all new level: these boys live by the motto that they can drink themselves blind, have their way with girls if enough money was offered, and believe that any damage caused is easily fixed with the darling little debit card slotted into their well-used wallets.
Perhaps this is where the critical responses stem from: it’s not accurate, it’s outrageous, how dare you try and besmirch our Chancellor of the Exchequer, our Mayor of London, and our Prime Minister, of taking part in such debauchery! However these are responses of shallow depth, and have failed to grasp the vital point of such a movie: the extremes aren’t meant to be representative, but a concentrated reflection of a mentality present within our culture: money has the ability to make you invincible.
The ‘Riot Club’ has such a polarised audience because of this social argument- albeit an extremist version- and, putting myself out on a limb, I would argue those who disliked the film, are perhaps the ones not prepared to take the criticism against the upper-class, as indeed the film satirically achieves. In actuality, the film itself forces you to put yourself in a variety of positions, and makes you question your own moral integrity against the lures of a mercenary: would you perform a degrading, public and down-right indecent act if you were offered 27000 pounds? Would you allow your family-run pub, dependent on reputation, be destroyed and defiled by drunkards if they offered you more than the reparations required? Would you bribe someone in order to protect your dearest, despite the clear evasion of justice that would result? It puts you in a position where you have to choose between morality and money, and the answer might not be what the angel on your shoulder wants to hear, leaving you blaming the film for your unease rather than the self-reflection it has evoked.
Maybe -as an English student- I’ve read too far into the film, maybe the lines didn’t have quite that much between them; but upon hearing such divided reviews of one film, I would say there’s going to be a significant reason for it, and this was the interpretation I drew. The difference in wealth and its subsequent class system is only growing; resentments are exacerbated by rumours of University’s discrediting a student on the basis of where they were educated, sometimes those from independent suffer for their privileges, while other times the state school’s indisputable educational disadvantages hold them back. The status of one’s background is now entirely relevant in one’s success or first-impression, and whether or not that is an advantage or disadvantage, it’s a prejudice that ought to be taboo’d just as much as racism or sexism: it’s using another’s circumstance against them.