A sweet junket into the land of the new agers, and youth that refuses to grow old.
“Goats” is mostly about goats and the subtle wisdom and peace they can bring to those members of humankind wise enough to learn from them. OK, that is a little bit of BS. Actually, “Goats” is about adults and kids who grow up, and what happens when they do not grow up. Beneath the surface is the subtle lesson that we all have the choice to accept adulthood, or not. The richer we are, the tougher the choice. That is what you get, you Trustafarians!
Director Christopher Neil’s debut feature has David Duchovny (TV’s “The X-Files” and “Californication”) playing Goat Man, one of the last, steadfast, unreconstructed hippies. GM may spend most of his time wandering around stoned and communing with the spectacular hills of Tucson, Arizona. However, he has a green thumb as big as a whale, and thriving pot plants to prove it.
GM works for Wendy (Vera Farmiga—“Up in the Air,” “The Departed”) one of that rare breed of Americans who was born rich, and comfortable enough in their own skin to stay rich without killing themselves.
Or, perhaps, her lineage had not left her with sufficient IQ to figure out sufficiently creative ways of killing herself. Wendy spends her days convincing herself she is one of the truly gifted and happy women of America. She does primal scream therapy (very funny, if you bring earplugs) and has a PhD in poolside yoga. Wendy, like Goat Man, is still a child.
Wendy married, had a child, Ellis (Graham Phillips—TV’s “The Good Wife”)), and she and Goat man raised him from the time her husband left, soon after their marriage, until adulthood.
Adulthood in this case is marked by Ellis’ decision to attend the elite academy in which his father excelled to his present dominant position in accounting, real estate, law or some such ordinary and exceedingly boring endeavor. Like Wendy and GM, Ellis is a child; the difference is that he is, of all things, growing up.
Ellis’ biological father Bennet (Justin Kirk) is nowhere near as endearing as Goat Man, although he is fun enough to watch. Bennet is what one would expect of a mature version of a spoiled preppie. He is smart and successful in spite of the fact that nobody could stand to be his friend.
This is a problem with the film; the character development is hard to believe, all around. The characters seem more like snapshots out of a film magazine, rather than real bunches of emotions.
On the surface Goat Man seems to be quite in control, the very model of the permanent drop out who has found peace. As it turns out, he has his problems, thank goodness, or there would be little point to the film. His most profound challenge has to do with the fact that the boy, Ellis, passed Goat man in emotional age at about the time the boy turned 12 years old. Daily pot use has left GM not only a bit weary of brain, but also out of touch with the real world.
In the end, he must choose between goats and adulthood. The choice is surprising. Well, OK, it is not that surprising, because it can only go one way or the other. More to the point, everybody grows wiser and stringer by the end of the film. It is that kind of movie, a great way to see a beautiful part of America and spend a dreamy afternoon where everything works out fine, in the end.
The trips in the mountains are based on coaching by actual goat trekker Tommy DiMaggio, with sound healing workshops provided by Tryshe Dhevney. A few minutes of goat trekking and sound healing and you will know why you have not completely bought off on the New Age movement. Tomorrow is another day.
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Directed by: Christopher Neil
Written by: Mark Poirier (novel and screenplay)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, David Duchovny and Keri Russell
Release Date: August 10, 2012
MPAA: Rated R for drug content including teen drug and alcohol use, language, sexuality and nudity
Run Time: 94 minutes