Mr O and I celebrated out seventh wedding anniversary last week and we were lucky enough to have the O Seniors volunteer to babysit Little O overnight so we could go on a date. They also gave us a voucher for our local cinema as a gift so we decided to check out a film. We were actually hoping for Black Klansman but it wasn’t showing anymore and American Animals was our next choice.
Friends Spencer (Barry Keoghan) and Warren (Evan Peters) are bored. They’re bored with college and with the prospect of facing unremarkable futures where they live lives just like everyone else. When Spencer tells Warren about some extremely rare, very valuable books that are stored in the special collections section of the college library, Warren spots an opportunity.
This sets off a plan that sees the two look for a buyer and ultimately bring on board, angry socially awkward accounting student, Eric (Jared Abrahamson) and wealthy overachiever, Chas (Blake Jenner). As they get deeper into the planning and closer to the robbery some of the group members start to have second thoughts, but is it too late to go back.
The way this story is told is somewhat unusual. The events of the planned robbery unfold alongside commentary from the real Warren, Spencer, Eric and Chas and their families. It’s half documentary and half heist movie. It’s a very interesting device but if I am very honest, I am not sure it really works.
The tone is very confused and it’s hard to know what the ultimate goal is. Some mention is made of the fact that the characters remember things differently and some of what happened may all have been made up by Warren, but the concept is underused. A lot of effort is put into explaining how Spencer and Warren are wanting a transformative experience to change their lives but Eric and Chas’ motivation is much less clear and it’s hard to understand why Chas in particular got involved. This isn’t helped by the fact that all four characters are wankers. Spencer is just about redeemable but he still makes terrible choices.
Of the actors playing the young “robbers”, Peters is unquestionably the best. He really captures Warren’s manic energy. Keoghan is not bad either but I had moments where I wanted to shake him. Ann Dowd has a small but powerful role as the sole librarian standing between the boys and the books and there are some tense and exciting moments. Is it enough to save the film? I’m not sure. I have no desire to watch it again and I can’t say I’ll remember it much a week from now.