What immediately pulled me into Shithouse was my connection with the Alex character. He’s an introvert who found comfort deep within himself after the death of his father. He calls his mother and sister out of loneliness and this growing feeling of alienation knowing that his roommate hates him, and the girl of his “dreams” wants nothing to do with him after a single night of passion.
Speaking of “useless things I learned in college,” the story of Alex represents stage 6 of Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development—that of Intimacy vs. Isolation. Thus far in his college career, Alex has been a loner, buying meals at the cafeteria and eating it in his room. He has no car, and yet, he knows no one to give him a ride for simple errands. This isolation weighs on him, leaving him wondering if he’ll return next year.
“Raiff is meticulously measured in the manner and pace when Alex ‘blooms.’”
Writer/director/actor, Cooper Raiff, plays Alex perfectly. As an introvert, Alex tries to be not only open with his feelings but insightful about them as well. It’s just that no one cares to listen to him. Every effort to be sincere is immediately thwarted, sending him back into his shell. They call this negative reinforcement.
While Shithouse focuses primarily on Alex (as he is in most of the movie), Dylan Gelula is equally brilliant as Maggie. Maggie moves from man to man, one-night-stand to the next due to her own hang-ups. Like Alex, connection with others is what she wants, but while Alex craves it, she fears it.
Shithouse is a smart and funny film about a type of character Hollywood rarely handles authentically—the introvert. In the big studio tale, the introvert does pot, gets drunk, jumps in the pool, and has sex, and then the flower has bloomed. Instead, Raiff is meticulously measured in the manner and pace when Alex “blooms.” It ends in a moment of contained, highly-felt emotion resulting in an incredible phone call to his mom and sister. Shithouse defines the phrase “coming of age.”
Shithouse won the Grand Jury Prize, Narrative Feature at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.
"…a conversation that Alex was forcefully pushed into having by his stuffed animal dog."