This often pained comedy/character study stands as something of a breakthrough in the portrayal of geek culture on film. Here’s a bunch of guys playing a homebrew iteration of Dungeons & Dragons in the house their grown-man gamemaster lives in rent-free with his nana—but it’s not the game or the nerdery that’s the joke, and the particular case of manchild-dom diagnosed by Andrew Matthews’s script and Sam Eidson’s excellent lead performance isn’t presented as some deadly, contagious strain.
It’s something like a lighter Big Fan about a role-playing game obsessive, Scott, an Ignatius J. Reilly type who insists that the sessions he runs are more about “collaborative storytelling” than fellowship, dice-rolling, and escaping a life that isn’t going anyplace. Eidson looks the part, coming across as a real-world RPG lug rather than an actor who’s boned up on his Gary Gygax. His enthusiasm during gameplay, and his pique when a hipster geek joins his group, feel like life itself has been captured.
The filmmakers smartly taxonomize today’s gamer culture: Scott’s nemesis is Miles (Garrett Graham), a geek made good with a profitable pop-culture website, a beautiful girlfriend, and that key equipment that no fantasy knight could ever loot from the corpse of some beast: the charm, confidence, and emotional wherewithal to thrive in the here and now.
The comic scenes arc into bleakness, and the bleak ones often collapse back into comedy—except when Sam loses it entirely, raging in his car or bedroom, the metal cranked up and his spit flecking the camera. This is raw and affecting, a real movie rather than fan-con fun.