There’s a question in art that to me seems to have a simple answer but somehow remains a controversy. Is art for the artist or for the public? Relating this to film, when a filmmaker makes a movie, is it for himself or for the audience? To me, the answer is simple. It’s for the audience, especially if you’re asking them to invest two hours of their life to look/watch your art.
In this coming of age story, director Tariq Greene’s Guys Night Out recounts the last night before graduation for a group of teenagers. The end of the school year marks the transition of life for young people, and it often marks a moment when the status quo is interrupted as each member is either moving on, moving out, or not moving anywhere. This is what happens to four best buds: Alex (Alex Conn), Tariq (Tariq Greene), Stephen (Stephen Little), and Zach (Zach Ament) as they come face-to-face with their inevitable break-up.
What would you do on your final night with friends? For our protagonists, they spend as much time together as they possibly can. They start by talking about movies and girls on the car ride to their house. There they continue to talk about girls while trampolining and then invent a “Spin-Cam” effect on said trampoline.
“What would you do on your final night with friends?…spend time together…”
Soon, the night heats up with a 40-minute car ride to go bowling, where the boys talk about what their parents call “Trash on the Internet,” global warming, and Donald Trump. But what night wouldn’t be complete without a round of laser tag? But soon all good things must come to an end as the boys confess their secrets over a meal at a local diner.
Guys Night Out is two hours of hair-tearing, tear-inducing, bewilderment. It reminded me of that time when I drove my kid and her three friends on a ninety-minute excursion to Legoland. The moment that I paid attention to their conversation, was the moment I wanted to drive the car off a cliff.
What is Guys Night Out? It’s what you get if you gave four average teen boys a video camera and had them document everything they did and said over an evening, then splice that footage together with minimal editing. They succeeded in taking a two-hour movie and made it feel like four.
“The four engage in every-day discussions about nothing profound…”
Here’s the essential problem with Guys Night Out. It’s a plot with no story. Four friends spending their last night together is good, but not necessarily an exciting plot for a film. The four engage in every-day discussions about nothing profound. The dialogue is clearly improvised, which means it is unplanned and unfocused. At times, everyone is speaking over each other and/or making smart-a*s remarks whenever someone else is saying something.
What is unclear is what are you as writers and filmmakers trying to say about friendship and what do you want audiences to walk away with in terms of a message. Every scene should build and reinforce that message. Otherwise, I might as well be watching cat videos online.
Lastly, the film needs serious editing, but I seriously doubt that would change the film’s inherent weaknesses. What really would have helped is planning before a single second was shot. Instead, we have a very long and uninteresting improv show.
Guys Night Out (2018) Directed by Tariq Greene. Written by Alex Conn, Tariq Greene, Stephen Little. Starring Alex Conn, Tariq Greene, Stephen Little, Harry Conn, Zach Ament.
1 out of 10 stars