Perception is an interesting thing, the place where truth and fact get lost in a sea of interpretation. The facts of an incident are not as important as how we remember and perceive the events. Our perception is what drives the outcome, regardless of intent or actual actions. This is what is explored brilliantly in Ryan Gielen’s Drinking Games.
Richard is sitting alone in his dorm room, writing a paper. He is leaving school tomorrow and trying to wrap up some loose ends. His roommate and lifelong friend Shawn wants to party in the room with his new mentor, the diabolically manipulative Noopie. While the two argue, it becomes apparent they are in different places in their life and Shawn is the one behind. Noopie wants to party with as many women as possible tonight and will stop at nothing to accomplish his short term goals. With the snow coming down and Blood-Alcohol levels rising, damage is being done to everyone. The question being, who will make it out unscathed by Noopie’s quest for self-gratification?
The film is as much about pushing boundaries as it is anything else, personal boundaries and the boundaries of friendship. Shawn and Richard grew up together and are growing apart. Richard has some personal problems that he is dealing with as well as growing pains. Shawn, on the other hand, is trying to be cool but failing miserably due to his own lack of consciousness. This happens in life more often than not, but in this instance, the snow, the party, and Noopie are all converging at once and Shawn’s world is about to crumble.
Drinking Games is not a horrific film so much as it’s a film of horrific intent. Noopie is a force of natural, the kind of guy that reaches a god like status in High School and College because of his calculated recklessness. Seldom do these people excel in life, but for that moment in time, they are the envy of every other kid affected by their perceived mastery of life. Is he evil? That is up to interpretation, but make no mistake; he takes no responsibilities for his actions or the ramifications of said actions.
Rob Bradford is undeniably perfect as Noopie. A man who is the embodiment of cool as seen through the eyes of a 19 year old, then again, he may be just a degenerate date rapist. Either way, his performance is powerful and credible; bringing truth to what could have become a Brett Easton Ellis knockoff character.
Nick Vergara is also very believable as Shawn. The boy who acts cool and talks down to others but is really lost and seeking his place in the world. His idea of cool is only how he perceives others and that is his downfall. Finally, Blake Merriman as Richard. It’s his eyes through which we watch the events unfold, interestingly enough, he is not present for everything and he states as much in his opening monologue. This leads us to really think about the events that unfold and the true actions of each involved.
Drinking Games is based on the play “Dorm” which doesn’t always translate well to a traditional narrative film. However, in this case, the story unfolds smoothly and the limited cast is perfect. Ryan Gielen has put together a brutally honest slice of life whose horror depends on the viewer’s perception of the events as they unfold. As in life, there are no clear definitions drawn. We must make our own decisions here and that alone is a joy to watch unfold. The interesting thing is, the conclusions you arrive at may surprise you.
Like I said, the film is all about perception and by the end of it, you may want to rethink how you choose to see the world. In the end there is no such thing as memory, only interpretation and that is a dangerous thing.