I woke up early to catch a 9:00am screening of Goats at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s hard to enjoy just about any film at that hour of the morning, get caught up in a not-so-fast-moving drama, or let alone laugh out loud at a odd concept, but somehow Goats managed it all and had me leaving the theater ready for more.

The Players:

  • Director: Christopher Neil
  • Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier, based on his novel
  • Producer: Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Eric Kopeloff, Shannon Lail
  • Cast: Graham Phillips, David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Ty Burrell, Justin Kirk, Keri Russell

Sundance Synopsis:

Having a self-absorbed New Age mother and an estranged father means 15-year-old Ellis Whitman has grown up relying on an unconventional guardian: a goat-trekking, marijuana-growing sage called Goat Man. So when Ellis decides to leave the alternative ways of his desert homestead for a stuffy East Coast prep school, major changes are in store. But not in the way you’d think. Though often stoned, the exceedingly smart and capable Ellis effortlessly aces school and excels at track. As the year progresses, it’s his relationships with the adults in his life that test him, challenging his beliefs about responsibility and trustworthiness.

The Good:

  • The Supporting Cast: Vera Farmiga goes over, David Duchovney goes under, Justin Kirk wiggles through and all together they somehow manages to create a perfectly balanced, albeit insane cast.
  • The Goats: The meaning behind them and how they’re weaved into the story works perfectly. They are the perfect balance of purpose and comedic value that helps move the story forward while also decorating the scenery.
  • The Dynamics: In any good drama, the thing that sells it is the chemistry between the characters and this film has just that. With odd but realistic responses that seem completely appropriate in the situation provided and story-line that doesn’t take their audience for granted, the characters and the script really are what makes this film.

The Bad:

  • Lack of a Solid Ending: The ending is sweet and nice, but the film as a whole feels like it needed the stakes raised and the ending to have more purpose. This comment may have been the result of seeing too many films without a grand finale on the same day, but there was so much build up, that it was a shame to see it not add up to more.
  • No Emotional Release: Though Graham Phillips gives a solid performance in the lead role, it’s frustrating that his character never gets to release the tension that he’s caring with him throughout the entire film. Not that the film needed a cliched, over the top dramatic scene, but the fact that you’re so invested in his character makes you want to see him have his moment and allow him to release all the frustration that we, the audience, feel for him.


It’s a nice, sweet comedy, with some fun moments at an interesting family dynamic. Much like all of the Sundance film this year, there’s nothing ground-breaking nor innovative about it, but it is an easy watch, and a very good representation of the dramedy genre.

Rating: 7/10