Though I don’t typically watch the Oscars, or even a significant number of the nominees, awards season still brings its own sort of fun. On the Blog Collab, it’s a time to revisit the films we meant to cross off the list, as well as those we’re surprised didn’t receive wider recognition. This week’s film falls into the latter category…though it’s not actually too shocking this one was largely ignored by critics. Do I need to say it at this point? #OscarsSoWhite
Hoping to make history with an epic night out, college seniors experience unexpected detours when they find a girl passed out in their living room.
Sean and Kunle, college seniors with just a few months left to party, intend to go out in style. Black students attending a primarily white institution, the two are determined to make a name for themselves on the wall of Black firsts for the school. Never before accomplished? The completion of a legendary tour, going to seven different frat parties in one night.
While studious Kunle, child of immigrants, cares for his lab specimens and plans to begin a PhD program at Princeton after graduating, free-spirited Sean only takes partying seriously. Both frequently experience being the only students of color in class, keeping quiet when professors use trigger warnings as a blanket excuse for using racist language and then asking for Black student perspectives.
Despite the everyday experiences of racism on campus, Sean and Kunle are eager for the night out, though their gamer geek roomie Carlos is very much not invited. However, before the evening can even get started, Sean and Kunle find an extremely drunk white girl passed out on their floor. Carlos, obliviously gaming the whole time, has no clue how to explain the situation either. The only thing the group knows is that calling the police will result in more questions they can’t answer, and very likely put them in danger.
After some persuasion, Sean convinces Kunle and Carlos of their best course of action: find the closest frat party and leave the girl, Emma, there to be found. When this plan backfires, the three are left with the extremely suspicious circumstances of driving around with an unconscious girl in their car and a busted tail light. Attempting to switch cars, keep Emma hydrated, and make their way to the hospital, the group encounters obstacles consistently.
Meanwhile, a group led by Emma’s sister attempts to track her down based on the cell phone hidden in her dress. It seems inevitable that a major misunderstanding will occur when the two groups finally meet; will Sean and Kunle have a chance to explain before anyone else is hurt?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
This is billed as a comedy, and there are genuinely funny moments and lines of dialogue (the detail where residents of a white neighborhood threaten to call the police on the “suspicious” group while a BLM sign stands on their lawn; likewise, the nice touch that someone on the wall of fame is recognized as the “first Black man to 3D print”). However, the themes are quite serious, investigating police violence, respectability politics, and the racism of liberal white spaces. The film’s uneven tone, and the plot that is stretched a bit thin at times, are most likely why it didn’t receive more critical attention. I would be shocked if we don’t see even better work from director Carey Williams in the future.
There’s a lot to like here that’s worthy of recognition. It’s an original story, somewhere between Get Out and Dear White People. The differences between Sean and Kunle’s experiences with race are explored well, as Sean’s childhood while growing up poor and with significant police interaction diverges from Kunle’s as a child of immigrant doctors. Kunle himself is actually quite uncomfortable with Sean’s cousins, as he has internalized the mentality that distinguishing himself as not like other Black people will protect him. In the film’s conclusion, Kunle directly encounters a terrifying challenge to this assumption.
Shout out to Carlos, who makes time to call out sexist usage of the words pussy and bitch even during a highly stressful situation.