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'The Line' Review: Alex Wolff and Halle Bailey Star in a Convincing, Sinister School Thriller

It’s hard not to think of Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History while watching Ethan Berger’s debut novel The Line. Richard Papen is the protagonist of Tartt’s brisk and riveting novel, alongside Tom ( Alex Wolff of Berger’s riveting thriller. ) very similar. Like Richard, Tom is a scholarship student who finds himself flirting with the campus’ elite. A classic professional cabal organized around the cult of an enigmatic professor captivated Richard; Greek life, with its fraternal allegiance and allure of alumni visits, fascinated Tom. Both characters are ashamed of their working-class origins and try in vain to cover up and mock their pasts.

The Line Follow Tom to learn the same devastating lesson that Richard did. Berger, who co-wrote the screenplay with Alex Russek, foreshadows the tragedy early on, meaning we don’t have to piece together a mystery. Instead, we can take a closer look at the behavior of the young men of KNA, the fictional fraternity at the center of the play. Many of them are descendants of American aristocracy. Their parents were popular politicians and well-connected businessmen whose influence seeped into campus life. These boys—actually, boys when you think of them—entered college with the security that this legacy provided. So what exactly are they trying to prove? Bottom line

Bottom Line It’s captivating, if not in-depth.

Tribeca Film Festival (Focus Narrative)
Cast: Alex Wolfe, Lewis Pullman,

Halle Bailey, Austin Abrams, Angus Cloud
Ethan Berger
screenwriter: Ethan Berger, Alex Russek 1 hour 1993 minutes

Dangerous with most life in Greece Like many of the movies, the answer is rooted in misogyny. The isolated KNA community breeds an unhealthy sense of belonging and a desperate need for recognition. The Line opens in , Tom’s mother (Cheri Oteri) called and he was out for posturing. The “Fake Forest Gump” accent, the Presidential alumni who can’t stop talking about his fraternity, and rising power make him a worse breakfast companion; they’re signs of Tom’s slow transformation. Later, at dinner with friend Mitch (Bo Mitchell) and Mitch’s parents, Tom uses his fake Southern accent to lie about where he works during the summer.

The Line’s interests—the stresses of Greek life, the toxicity of hypermachismo, the corruption of white privilege—are on Tom and His family, friends and later crush Annabelle (underutilized Halle Bailey ). Wolfe (Hereditary) is impressive, subtly tempering his performance so we can’t fall too easily into one emotional camp – overly sympathetic or outright angry. Tom wanted to fit it in, overcome class anxiety by transcending it, and KNA initially offered the easiest path.

As a second grader, Tom is now on the other side of the bullying ritual. Freshman in a new class means he gets a chance to prove his ability and loyalty to chapter president Todd (a creepy good Lewis Pullman). When a school bans bullying on campus, members must exercise caution. But Mitch — Tom’s closest friend and roommate — begins to feud with the committed Gatiss O’Brien (Austin Abrams) and resorts to more vengeful hazing, making him a liability. To side with Mickey, the fraternity pariah, means risking your own good reputation. Not protecting his friends, however, proves just as dangerous in his own sworn class (whose members are played by the likes of Graham Patrick Martin and Angus Cloud).

Bullying-related deaths and injuries are not collected in a single database in the United States, yet they make headlines with chilling frequency. The Line convincingly explores this reality, and with the help of DP Stefan Weinberger, Berger shows how easily these situations can turn deadly. His calm directorial style treats bullying scenes with dispassion, translating them into ethnographic research.

When it comes to The Line More interesting thread: how fraternity activates Tom’s socioeconomic anxiety. The sophomore endured a lot of humiliation for recognition: His olive skin prompted his fraternity brothers to call him a “jihadist”; they mocked his interest in Annabelle because she was black and not involved in Greek life or Stick to their aesthetic standards. He meekly tries to stand up for himself, but the rules of acceptance are always changing. Tom’s inability to keep pace becomes a true sign of his outsider status.

It would be more convincing if Berger delved deeper into Tom’s life, exploring his sense of belonging. Originally, his conversation with Annabelle was a way of doing this, but they didn’t go anywhere and her character ended up being irrelevant. As the film draws closer to its predictable conclusion, questions keep popping up about Tom’s desires and motivations. With no answer, The Line ends on a deflated, oddly noncommittal note.

The stakes are higher for this working class kid chasing his version of the American dream and my mind goes back to the end of The Secret History Richard. Realizing how much trouble he might be in, the novel’s protagonist panics and considers his situation: “What does it matter if they don’t graduate, if they have to go home?” Friends in the main cabal. “At least they have families to go to. They have trust funds, stipends, bonus checks, doting grandmothers, close-knit uncles and loving families. College is just a way station for them, a youthful diversion. It’s my main chance, my only chance.”

Full credits

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight Narrative)Production Company:, Big Cat Productions, Carte Blanche, Chaos Cedar I Productions, The Brand Productions, Thunderbird Films, Valparaiso Pictures Cast: Alex Wolff, Lewis Pullman, Halle Bailey, Austin Abrams, Angus Cloud, Scoot McNairy, John Malkovich , Bo Mitchell, Denise Richards

Director: Ethan Berger
Writers: Ethan Berger, Alex Russek
Producers: Alexandre Dauman, Jack Parker, Adam Paulsen, Lije Sarki
Executive Producers: Taylor Grant, Zack Purdo, Ramanan Sivalingam , Dustin Zhang, Magnus Rausing, Ryan Alexander, Stacey Grant, Jay Van Hoy, Marc Porterfield
Cinematographer: Stefan Weinberger
Production Designer: Francesca Palombo Costume Designer: Akua Murray- Adobe
Editor: Ted Feldman

Composer: Daniel Rosen

Casting director: Chris Freihofer
Sales: CAA Media Finance Group and UTA Independent Film Group
1 hour40 minute THR Communications

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