'The F**k-It List': Film Review

Awesomeness Films/Jessica Perez
Remarkably tone-deaf and cynical for all the wrong reasons.
7/1/2020

Eli Brown stars as a valedictorian-turned-viral-sensation in this teen-targeted Netflix comedy.

There's a single moment that rings true in Netflix's The F**k-It List, a teen movie that's somehow painfully schematic and yet not generic enough to be passable. After it's announced at school that the valedictorian protagonist, Brett (Eli Brown, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists), has gotten into seven of the eight Ivies that he applied to, a random classmate calls him "the most boring kid in America." The rest of the movie finds Brett challenging that assessment, but the more he tries, the more it's proved correct.

"I blew high school," Brett concludes, because he set goals for himself, achieved them and is now positioned for a wide-open future limited only by the limits of his ambition and imagination. The Booksmart girls came to a similar conclusion after realizing they could've squeezed in a few dates and parties into their Type A study schedule. But they also saw college as part of a lifelong journey. The F**k-It List says "fuck it" to college because the film can't conceive of higher education as anything beyond fulfilling parental hopes. Intellectual curiosity — or the possibility of finding one's self through new ideas — simply doesn't exist in this universe.

Brett, his closeted friend Clint (Marcus Scribner) and his aspiring-model love interest Kayla (Madison Iseman) are graduating seniors, but the F**k-It List feels more like a midlife-crisis movie set unconvincingly at a high school, complete with a drone shot of a convertible ride on a winding beach road straight out of a car commercial. After Brett (implausibly) takes the fall for an (unlikely) prank that (ridiculously) blows up a school building, he's expelled — and all his college acceptances are withdrawn.

But he somehow keeps his waitlist position at Harvard, and much of the movie is dedicated to his parents' (Jerry O'Connell and Natalie Zea) efforts to get him admitted into their dream school for Brett instead of, I dunno, finding another institution that'll take in their accidental Ted Kaczynski and give him a high-school diploma. I am sorry to report that Zea's undisputed MILF-dom plays an outsized role in these efforts.

But the real raison d'être of this bungle from Awesomeness Films, the Gen Z-targeted studio from originally YouTube-centric AwesomenessTV, is to show Brett becoming a viral star and potential influencer. Brett presumably worked hard for his straight As, and his wealthy parents paid for tutors, classes and extracurricular activities so that he could have a shot at the Ivy League. But when he complains on Instagram that there's still a whole lot that he hasn't gotten to do by age 18 — perish the thought — his effortless, authentic whining makes him a hashtag phenomenon. (If only other wannabe influencers had tried…complaining about the banalities of their life on the internet.)

What follows is Brett trying to "follow his bliss" and "be himself," except that all we really learn about him is that he hates the clarinet (take that, jazz band!) and that he's very good at spending his parents' money with zero consequences or self-awareness. How wonderful that property damage and some off-the-cuff social-media grumbling ultimately lead this rich white kid to have even more advantages than he did at the beginning of the movie, when his most pressing decision was choosing one of seven Ivies to attend. #Relatable #JustLikeMe 

A wan presence, Brown can't make his character's bratty ennui compelling, and his proven co-stars — O'Connell, Scribner and Zea — don't get enough material to do much with their thin-bordering-on-skeletal roles. Zea seems particularly cheated: She gets a maternal monologue a la Jennifer Garner in Love, Simon, but the speech eventually ends up making minimal sense in the context of the scene, let alone contributing much to the movie. First-time director Michael Duggan adds little visual interest, and his script, with Dan McDermott, might as well be the page after page of the "How do you do, fellow kids?" meme.

The pandemic and its necessary compromises have added renewed urgency to the question of what college is supposed to provide students, especially as tuition and other fees continue skyrocketing ad absurdum. Which is another way of saying that The F**k-It List could've been something other than a story about how the easiest, most undemanding thing that a young person can do is the right thing to do. I'm not sure who this remarkably tone-deaf, cynical-for-the-wrong-reasons film is supposed to be for, other than maybe college-hating gajillionaire Peter Thiel. As the kids used to say, thanks, I hate it.

Production company: Awesomeness Films

Distributor: Netflix

Cast: Eli Brown, Madison Iseman, Marcus Scribner, Amanda Grace Benitez, Andrew Bachelor, Karan Brar, Jerry O’Connell, Natalie Zea, Peter Facinelli, Camryn Maneheim

Director: Michael Duggan

Producers: Michael Duggan, Dan McDermott, Matthew Signer

Executive producers: Brett Bouttier, Don Dunn, Jordan Levin, Scott Levine, Gabby Revilla Lugo

Director of photography: Christopher Hamilton

Production designer: Stephanie Hamilton    

Costume designer: Danielle Launzel    

Editor: Bruce Green

Casting: Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Beth Lipari

Not rated, 103 minutes

Premieres Wednesday, Jul. 1, on Netflix