The Party Is Over opens on a shot of our protagonists, three hard-partying college dudes, sitting in a police station, looking bedraggled and crapulous — one of them, played by current “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kyle Mooney, is wearing a dress — as they are read a long list of their various misdeeds by an angry policeman. It’s an archetypal scene, one we have seen in countless college comedies, but, here, it is a complete red herring. This sort of scene is usually meant to indicate that our protagonists are lovable subversives, thumbing their noses in the face of authority. But, as we will see over the next hour and a half, these guys are not lovable slobs; they are unlikable, borderline sociopathic, and definitely misogynistic.
Or are they? The Party Is Over at times seems to offer a serious critique of its main characters, but it still remains their movie, told exclusively from their point of view, and asking us to sympathize with them, all while framing things within an ill-fitting seriocomic “indie” style. This is a problem, because The Party Is Over also wants to say something — and I stress the word “something,” because I am genuinely confused about what exactly this movie is trying to say — about sexual politics within the heady, hormonal, alcohol-marinated world of a college campus, but it does so in such a muddled, perplexing way that it ends up feeling more like a rationalization of its characters’ misogyny than a critique of it.
The aforementioned trio of protagonists are Fino (Micky Shiloah), Will (Eddie Perino), and Natan (Kyle Mooney), three housemates who are throwing a keg party. Each one gets wrapped into some tricky sexual situations with three very different women. Fino engages in some very rough sex with his ex-girlfriend Nia (Michelle Page). Will finds Noel (Karynn Moore), who shares his enthusiasm for amateur pornography but turns out to be more than he can handle. And Natan pursues Sana (Tamara Dhia), a devout muslim who rebuffs his persistent, stalkery advances.
The Party Is Over was written by Julian Camillieri and directed by Vahe Gabuchian, both of whom are male, and I think their hearts are in the right place (though I can write that only by giving them the benefits of several doubts), but — and, though this is a bit of a spoiler, it is a crucial issue — this is a movie in which a female character invents a sexual assault allegation. The film ultimately proffers some sympathy toward Nia and her reasons for doing this, but its central function in the film is to allow Fino to play the victim. And without fully interrogating such an action in a realistic way it just reiterates predominant cultural lies, that women can’t be trusted, that they are flaky and crazy, that campus sexual assault is nothing but a big misunderstanding.
On some level, the filmmakers seem aware of their characters’ misogyny, but it treats it in such a weird and inconsistent fashion. In one scene, the three guys roll into the gymnasium, forties in hand, to gawk at girls doing gymnastics, and the film treats it like a lovable antic. But in Natan’s storyline — by far the film’s strongest — the film clearly critiques him for his entitlement, treating Sana, who has clearly expressed her disinterest, as if he is entitled to her. Her refusal to have sex with him (or even to show him her hair, which she keeps concealed in a headscarf) as an affront. Sana argues, clearly and directly, that her religion is a means of controlling her own body by keeping unwanted sexual advances at bay. If The Party Is Over had focused on Natan and Sana it might have worked (though, even here, Gabuchian can’t help treating Natan sneaking into Sana’s yard to spy on her through the window as some kind of goofy rom-com shenanigan).
The Party Is Over practically defines the word “problematic.” It somehow makes room for both a fake rape allegation and a classroom lecture about how ancient Greek terracotta art objectifies women. I’m not sure if it was calculated for this purpose or if it merely stumbles into it, but the film ends up offering a little something for everyone on the sexual politics spectrum, from ardent feminist to Men Rights Activist. In the end, it is a strange muddle, some weird hybrid of sex comedy and social issues drama, yet completely lacking in jokes or points.