"Goats" tracks its main character Ellis Whitman (Graham Phillips), a 15-year-old Arizonan as he leaves the gorgeous desert compound his addled New Age mother Wendy (Vera Farmiga), has decamped to with her trust fund. Ellis has spent much of his early formative years taking treks and toking down with Goat Man, aka Javier, (David Duchovny) with whom he smokes copious amounts of grass and generally hangs out.
Ellis heads to an equally gorgeous New England prep school his own absent straitlaced rich father Frank (Ty Burrell) once attended. In fact, his dad had roomed there with the current headmaster, and so the bar is set high for Ellis. He smokes his courses (cut off from his cannabis connection), meets up with other potheads at the school, runs cross-country after some coercion from the hip track coach, declines a liaison with local dining-hall staffer Minnie (Dakota Johnson), who spends her time reading and making extra money off the student bodies. Ellis initially runs afoul of his father Frank during a terse, tense Thanksgiving, but later the pair find their peace and bond.
Ellis has to decide where to spend summer break, back in Arizona or with his dad, his step mother, and infant half brother.
Well, the critics pretty much gleefully savaged this Sundance film, citing its meandering plot, lack of action, and hybridized comedy-drama tone and comparing the actors and the plot to goats. Cynics are always ready with barbs, but I have to say, this is a fun movie when you don't want 3D special effects, overbearing soundtracks, mutilation and mayhem, and twisted plot lines. In other words, "Goats" affords one the chance to just kick back, watch a story without any secret message or theme. It's just a twisted tale, not a study in realism, about choices, growing up, and growing out. We have all done it in one way or another, and the point here is that there is always a story, even if it is not a cautionary tale or sex romp.
It is not a classic movie, but it is a classic case of what happens when critics drip spleen and venom without considering maybe the point of the movie is to meander. I don't think the goats care one way or another but I enjoyed watching it on a Saturday evening.