Still of Justin Kirk and Graham Phillips in Goats
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Christopher Neil
In this coming-of-age story based on the novel Smart People by Mark Jude Poirier, Ellis Whitman (Graham Phillips) is a 15-year-old with a strange family dynamic. His mother (Vera Farmiga) is a trust-fund hippy, completely self-absorbed and childish, and his father (Ty Burrell) has been absent for most of his life. This leaves the goofy, marijuana-smoking "Goat Man" (David Duchovny) as his main guardian. Though his upbringing has been somewhat unconventional, Ellis decides to apply and is accepted to the same uppity prep school his father went to on the East Coast, far away from his laid-back desert hacienda in Arizona. Far from home, he has to deal with the changes to his family––his mother becoming more and more dependent and the news of his father's blossoming new family––all while trying to find himself. Phillips was absolutely perfect for this role. Having a couple of little brothers around the same age, I thought his acting was an accurate portrayal of a teenage boy dealing with adult problems. Goat Man was another favorite character, quirky and hilarious in his repartee with Ellis' mother's new boyfriend and his goats. Farmiga also did a wonderful job playing the New Age mother, funny at times, but also a little sad and angering at her failure to be the supportive mother Ellis needs, rather than the child-like burden she becomes. These characters are definitely what make the film enjoyable, along with the beautiful desert landscape, which brings a unique setting to the film.